Harry Lauder's Walking Stick
by Carolyn Proeber (roses(at)intercom.net
Most of us look best with clothes on. Same with our gardens, which are celebrated in the growing season when they burst forth with their coverings of foliage, flowers and leaves.
However, there are a few growing things which really do look best in their winter nudity. So now let's look on the bright side of winter.
One of the most bizarre little trees I've ever seen is my Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus Avellana 'Contorta'). The December 1998 Flower & Garden magazine described it as having "dramatic flair or a heightened sense of mystery." That's one way to look at it. But to me, the thing is mostly funny -- and it was, after all, named after a Vaudeville comedian who used a wild-looking bent gnarly cane.
This thing grows what are allegedly flowers -- the catkins which hang all over it all winter look like dead chicken feet with no bones. Then in the summer it sprouts smallish crinkly crepe paper leaves that sort of shiver and look cranky. It simply refuses to be upstaged by anything else in the garden.
Characterized as a large shrub, the Walking Stick can grow up to 20 feet high and wide, though most of the specimens I've seen have been slow growing and just two to five feet high. The curly branches of the Walking Stick are truly lovely, and they're pretty in arrangements.
Another tree which has beautiful twining curly branches is the corkscrew willow (Salix Matsudana 'Tortuosa'). This fast growing tree has a slightly more vertical habit than the Walking Stick; though it bushes out somewhat, it can grow as tall as 50-feet with a width of 20-feet. It is deciduous, and its delicately contorted branches are beautiful against backdrops like the sky or water. Like the Walking Stick, its branches are useful in arrangements, though they tend to be longer and more vertical.
© Carolyn Proeber
About the Author Carolyn Proeber (pronounced PRAY-ber) is an experienced gardening columnist based in Salisbury, Maryland. She lives with her husband Dave and their three children (Sheila, Tim and Zoe) near the Chesapeake Bay in gardening Zone 7b. She is also an artist, keyboardist and personal fitness trainer