What can we say about the cold? It is wonderful to have some respite by looking at seed catalogues or gardening magazines. We know this weather won’t last forever, even though it seems like it now!
A recent tour of the back yard with our curious dog gave me an opportunity to see how our trees and shrubs look without their foliage. The dogwood branches provide bright slices of color through the snow; the tree peonies, still with brittle bronze and beige leaves, look like fragile sculptures of glass; and the cranberry bunches still hang on the bushes, now sporting little white “toques” of snow on each berry cluster. With our winters being long, it is nice to plant shrubs or grasses that have eye appeal in the winter as well as the summer.
One shrub that has always intrigued me is corylus avellana, the two dollar name for Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick. Where did such a name come from? I read that once upon a time there was an elderly Scottish comedian named Harry Lauder, and he used a crooked, twisted stick as a walking stick. It’s not clear how he came to be connected to the shrub: maybe his walking stick was more memorable than his jokes! But either way, it is a name that stays in your memory! This unusual shrub, that has the fitting cultivar name “contorta”, is best known for its strange but beautiful twisted stems that look as though they are affected by some sort of plant deformity. They bend and they twist into meandering corkscrew shapes, which would make them a real highlight in a winter garden where leaves won’t hide their unusual beauty!
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick is a cousin of the hazelnut shrubs. It grows about four to six feet high, and is hardy in zones four to eight. (Now gardeners, you and I both know that if we love a challenge, we can still give plants like this a try; we might have to make a little extra effort with winter protection, and of course there are no guarantees. But if a plant really catches your interest, why not give it a try?) In the spring there are pretty catkins that resemble pussywillows. But from what I read, it does not bear any hazelnut fruit later in the season. It likes well drained soil, and prefers full sun but can tolerate part shade.
I also read that this is a grafted miniature tree; so that would mean that if you and I planted this shrub in our yards, we would have to be diligent about removing any suckers, because they would not have the same growing habit as Harry Lauder.
What do you say — would you give this plant a try, in spite of the growing zones? I know I would. I love plants that are unusual, and I also love plants that look great in the winter. They give us our money’s worth of beauty through every season! Do you recall that once we chatted about “Karl Foerster” grass? I long admired a stunning clump of this perennial grass in a nearby yard. We planted Karl a couple years ago in our yard, and it is a perennial that does not disappoint. It is hauntingly beautiful as an accent plant, summer or winter.
The Yorkton and District Horticultural Society invites all interested gardeners to join us! We have gardeners who are just starting out, and gardeners who have been gardening for years. The beauty of it is, it doesn’t matter whether you are a novice or experienced greenthumb, because there is always something new to learn about gardening. Our meetings are on the third Thursday of every month, and you are welcome to come, even if you don’t belong to the horticultural society. Our next meeting is February 20. Hope to see you then!
Get our those seed catalogues, gardeners! The days are getting longer! Till next time, have a good week, and stay warm!