A few years ago while browsing in the garden section of a store with my BFF (best friend forever) she suddenly stopped and said “Look, there’s Harry Lauder”. As I was looking around to see where this person was, she said “It’s a shrub, silly.” So, that is how I met my new shrub.
After bringing Harry home, I found out his official name is Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus Avellana ‘Contorta’). I introduced him to my husband, who did not seem impressed with this crazy looking plant with corkscrew branches that couldn’t grow straight. Nevertheless, I put Harry in a pot and he became part of our family. The leaves stayed green that summer and in the fall the foliage changed to golden yellow before dropping off. When the leaves were all gone, the curly, gnarled wild branches were quite spectacular. ‘You know who’ was still not too impressed. Does he have plant envy?
It was interesting how this plant was first discovered. It was found growing in an English hedgerow in the mid 1800’s. It was a ‘sport’ of a naturally occurring hazel or filbert tree. A ‘sport’ is part of a plant which has some peculiarity not seen in the species. It is an abnormal growth or variety. The cause is generally thought to be a mutation by chance or maybe genetic. Because of Its unusual appearance they propagated it by grafting onto rootstock.
It is classified as a deciduous woody shrub that does not produce fruit (nuts), will take full sun to part shade and grows best in rich well drained soil. It tolerates the average garden soil. It can also be potted. It is a slow grower as all the twists take a lot of energy instead of growing straight up and down. At maturity it could reach a height of 8 to 10 feet with a similar spread. I had no idea when I brought Harry home that day he had the ability to grow so tall. I thought he was just a little shrub. Just for general information, Harry is still a little shrub. I doubt he will ever get that tall in my lifetime.
Why is it called Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, you ask? My husband asked, so I found out that Sir Harry Lauder was a famous entertainer in England in the early 1900’s. He was known for singing Scottish ballads, always appearing in traditional Scottish dress and carrying a very distinctive walking stick. It was bent, twisted and contorted from handle to tip, so when it came time to name this twisted selection of filbert, the walking stick of the great entertainer came to mind. This also did not impress my husband. He thought that was a weird way to name a plant.
My Harry Lauder shrub is still planted in a pot and he did quite well for a few years, but lately I noticed that he seems to be a little bedraggled. He is not near as perky as he used to be (but then neither am I) and when I water him during these hot days he seems to give me sinister looks. As I have become quite fond of my twisted plant, I think I should either repot him or plant him directly in the ground. Maybe my husband will help me.
Treat yourself to this curious looking shrub. It has character and will hold a unique place in your garden as it is not picky about its location, resists most diseases and pests and is not invasive.
During normal times, before the virus shutdown, Red Bluff Garden Club meets the last Tuesday of the month at the Methodist Church, 525 David Avenue, Red Bluff, visitors are welcome.
The Red Bluff Garden Club is affiliated with the Cascade District Garden Club; California Garden Clubs, Inc; Pacific Region Garden Clubs and Natural Garden Clubs Inc.