At this time of year, when the winter blues set in, and Wiarton Willie as given us his spring prediction, I often look out in the garden and it looks pretty bare. Sure, I have some green and a splash of yellow, a dash of black but mostly it just lacking character. There is no splashes of pink. No dancing flowers. No green grasses blowing in the wind. However there is one particular shrub that catches everyone’s eye no matter what the season is…
Corkscrew Hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’), also known as a ‘Contorted Filbert’ or the ‘Devil’s Walking Stick’, this shrub belongs to the Birch (Betulacaae) family. It’s curly, twisting branches provide an eyeful of wonder all year round, throw some snow on there and you are in for a treat. Right now, in mid winter, the catkins are hanging from the branches adding a new dimension of interest. About a month from now, in mid-March, tiny purple flowers will begin to emerge, making it one of the few winter flowering shrubs! However you have to look closely to see the flowers, they are rather inconspicuous!
The Corscrew Hazel does best in well drained soil. It should be planted in an area that receives full sun to partial shade. However be warned, it can grow rather large, often wider than it is tall (approx 2.5m x 5m). Prune to maintain shape and size. Overall a very easy to grow plant!
Use the Corkscrew Hazel to provide bones in the garden – as noted it provides great winter interest, as a specimen planting – it looks fabulous lit up at night! It also makes an excellent addition to a border planting. You can also find Corkscrew Hazels that have been grafted into a treeform which can be very useful in a more contemporary planting.
There is also a purple leafed variety of Corkscrew Hazel available called ‘Red Magestic’ that is stunning, especially when used in a container planting.
If you want a plant that will stop those passing by and provide you with year round interest than the Corkscrew Hazel is a plant worth checking out!