Sunday, March 22, 2009

Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic'

Since my week got away from me last week, I'm posting a second post tonight. Hope you don't mind! I've promised a new plant or product post each week, too, so here's the new plant that I'm most excited about this week. (Since you're gardeners, you do understand that my favorite plant changes at least once a week!)

Corylus avellana. "Where have I heard that name?" you may ask yourself. (Or maybe not.) Well, it may sound familiar because it's the plant that many gardeners know by its common name--Harry Lauder's Walking Stick. Actually, it's Corylus avellana 'Contorta', if I'm being 100% correct. The species itself is not contorted, only the cultivar. For many years on my trips to Europe I have lusted after the many colored-foliage forms of filbert that are grown there--particularly in the cooler parts of Europe--Holland, Germany and so on. There were golden forms, purple forms, red forms, and others, but in the heat and humidity of the southern U.S., they were crispy by the end of June, if not sooner. Not so, now.

With the introduction of Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic', we finally have a colored-leaf form of the filbert that will withstand our heat and humidity--or so they say. Time will tell, but all the reports I've heard and read so far have been very positive. And not only are the leaves red, but the stems are also contorted and twisted! The vast majority of ornamental filberts whose foliage is colored have straight stems, but not this one! It's as curly and contorted and twisted as any "Harry Lauder's" I've ever seen--like a really good "bad hair day"! Well anyway, I'm excited about it. We received 6 plants at the garden center on Thursday--apparently they're extremely limited in their availability this first year on the market, but keep your eyes peeled. You might give a quick call to your local garden centers and see if they're going to carry it. If they are, I'd suggest getting your name put on a "Wish List", if they do that sort of thing. Otherwise, you may miss out.

'Red Majestic' grows just like the green Harry Lauder's Walking Stick--about 10'-12' high and wide, preferring full sun (though I'm guessing that just a little afternoon shade in the south might be beneficial), moist but well-drained soil and some occasional pruning to help shape it (and so that you can have those fabulous branches to use indoors!). If there is any drawback, it is that the plant is grafted. This is the quickest and most efficient way to propagate this plant and get it to market, but it has one negative. The rootstock is from the regular filbert (non-contorted) and the thing suckers like mad! My new plant is in a 3-gallon pot and is only about 24" tall and already it has suckers sprouting from the base. I chose one that has about 4" of trunk at the base of the plant so that I can plant it deep and bury the graft. Hopefully, that will help reduce the amount of suckering somewhat, but I'm sure that it won't eliminate it completely. Occasionaly sucker removal is a small price to pay though, for such a beautiful little garden plant! Get on the phone first thing in the morning and track one down!
Photo from Hale and Hines


Grace Peterson said...

Yes that is a beauty. At first I thought it was a large Loropetalum. I'm guessing it's out of my price range. Often I have to wait a few years for the price to drop to a level I can justify. But anticipation is half the fun.

Roses and Lilacs said...

I've always loved the twisted limbs of these unusual shrubs. I had one about 12 years ago but every year the root stock sent up more straight branches and the grafted portion got weaker. I dug it up after a 5-year battle.

Troy said...

Re: Cost. Not horribly expensive. $60 for very nice 3-gallon plants about 2' x 2'. For a new introduction, that's not too bad. And I'm expecting another foot or more of growth out of it this summer once it's in the ground, so I didn't feel too bad about paying for it.

Re: Suckers. Hopefully, by burying the graft about 4" deep, the amount of suckering will be reduced and the plant will eventually root out on its own and not be totally reliant on the grafted root system.

Tim said...

My neighbor has one with burgundy foliage that he got last year, but I don't think the cultivar is "Red Majestic." It stayed mostly dark foliage even through an Atlanta summer, and appears to be coming back beautifully this season. Good luck with yours! It's pretty awesome!

Anonymous said...

My neighbor just gave us one for our yard. We live in North Carolina next to a state park. Should it be protected from hungry deer?

Sue C said...

We are about to plant one in Maine (BarHarborArea) Wish us good luck. Any tips or advice would be appreciated.
Sue C

Anonymous said...

I have 3 Harry Lauders that are three years old, doing well but don't grow much. They are about three feet tall with healthy leaves. Just ordered two Red Majestics bare root and will give them more shade than the originals. Try Sooner Plant Farm or Forest Farm for reasonable prices. Jane in northern AZ.

Anonymous said...

I just got one yesterday. I chose it as the memento from a one week visit from my mother-in-law. I will put the phrase, "The lady needed a walking Stick" near it in the garden. I love the thing and hope its no problem that I pruned many of the lower branches to view the contortions thru the other seasons....K.C.