One of the most attention-getting shrubs in my winter landscape is Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, commonly called Harry Lauder’s walking stick for the cane used in the early 1900’s vaudeville act by Sir Harry Lauder.
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick grows eight to ten feet tall and about as wide. Not fussy about its growing conditions, it is equally happy in full sun or part shade.
It blooms in late winter or early spring before the foliage appears. Brownish yellow catkins dangle from leafless branches. Lightly crinkled, large green leaves are attractive but not spectacular, and its fall color is unexceptional.
Its branches – spiraling and contorted, twisted and coiling – are this shrub’s claim to fame.
Concealed when covered in foliage, its silhouette is a dramatic focal point in the winter garden.
Mine is planted near the front door where I can admire it every day. Outside a kitchen window, at the corner of a patio, and near a driveway are also good locations. Planted in a large decorative pot, it could be placed in a perennial border to serve as a lush backdrop in summer and then moved to the deck in winter. Wouldn’t it be fun to see songbirds perched on its curious branches?
Don’t forget to prune out some magnificent branches to use in floral arrangements. They are as lovely combined with winterberry in a Christmas arrangement as they are with tulips in a spring bouquet.
No plant is perfect and this one is no exception. Suckers from the root stock must be pruned out so the shrub doesn’t revert to the straight-stemmed species. Japanese beetles feast on its foliage – spraying, systemic insecticides or hand picking beetles will be required.
Put a Harry Lauder’s walking stick on your Plants to Purchase List in 2017 and garden with me!