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Posts Tagged ‘winter flowers’

Although it has been unusually cool and wet already this winter it is surprising how much is going on in the garden right now. Already the buds on many shrubs are stirring and growing larger and I have seen germinated seedlings with their first leaves emerging from places. The earliest blooming plants are starting to show up. One group of plants which never let us down are Hellebores and several species and hybrids are blooming or are in bud. One of the more interesting and fairly new to this area are the Helleborus x ericsmithii group. This plant selection was formerly known as Helleborus x nigerstern.

 Helleborus x ericsmithii brings together the best genes of 3 species into a spectacular plant.

Helleborus x ericsmithii brings together the best genes of 3 species into a spectacular plant.


Helleborus x ericsmithii is named after the important plantsman and propagator Eric Smith (1917-1986) who was the first person to successfully cross Helleborus niger( the Christmas Rose) with Helleborus x sternii ((H.argutifolius x lividus).
 Here we have Helleborus niger on the left, H. argutifolius on the lower right with H.lividus leaves in the background.

Here we have Helleborus niger on the left, H. argutifolius on the lower right with H.lividus leaves in the background.


Eric Smith grew up in South Hampshire England, he came from a middle class family. In 1940 he joined the army and was stationed for part of his time in Italy. After the war he was educated as an architect and worked as an assistant for several year. He always had a love for plant and joined the famous nursery Hilliers in Winchester from 1961 to 1965. While at Hilliers he worked as a propagator and first made the cross which lead to the group of plants we know as Helleborus x ericsmithii today. Later in the 1960s he would leave Hilliers and continue developing many other plants which are now associated with him. These plants would include many Hostas, Bergenias, Anemones and Kniphofias.
 A fine combination of plants found at Government House with Helleborus x ericsmithii being the star in earliest spring.

A fine combination of plants found at Government House with Helleborus x ericsmithii being the star in earliest spring.


Each of the 3 species of Hellebore brought something important to the new Helleborus x ericsmithii.  Helleborus niger brought the largest flowers. Helleborus argutifolius brought much-needed tolerance for the cold, green shades to the flower color range and toughness to the leaves.  Helleborus lividus brought pink tones to the flower coloring and improvement in the leaves with wonderful silver veins which new varieties are showing off more than the past.
 The pink and green shades blend together with the cream into a tapestry of tones in Helleborus x ericsmithii.

The pink and green shades blend together with the cream into a tapestry of tones in Helleborus x ericsmithii.


Helleborus  x ericsmithii brings us a long blooming season which usually begins here in early January and lasts through March. As the flowers are somewhat papery they generally can stand up well to the wet weather. The only thing one sees is soil which may splash up on the lower flowers. The leaves may sometimes become damaged when we have a particularly early frost such as the one we had in November of last year. Have no fear new leaves will appear to replace any of the damaged ones.
 This recently planted Helleborus x ericsmithii and will with time grow to be a formidable plant with countless blossoms.

This recently planted Helleborus x ericsmithii and will with time grow to be a formidable plant with countless blossoms.


Helleborus x ericsmithii is an easily grown plant and can be used in many ways as long as you fulfill its basic needs.  This is a plant which likes rich deep soil that is well-drained, it does not like to have overly wet roots as this can lead to rot. In the area I live in the Pacific north-west this plant does best in about half day sun, dappled situations are the best. In hotter and drier climates it will need more shade and more frequent watering.  Another thing to keep in mind is all Hellebores hate having their roots disturbed and sulk or sometimes die, therefore, carefully choose where you are going to place them and try not to move it. Always remove spent leaves and flowers to keep the area clean.
 Several Helleborus x  ericsmithii plants make an excellent container planting for winter color.

Several Helleborus x ericsmithii plants make an excellent container planting for winter color.


Helleborus x ericsmithii are used in many ways, in containers, as winter color and in the winter garden, as a specimen or accent or a border. These plants grow 20-25cm. (8-10 in.) height and grow into a clump up to 30-40cm (12-15in) wide making it an excellent addition to the rock or alpine garden. These plants are hardy to about -15 c.(5 f.) or a little colder with protection.These plants have few pests other than Aphids which may appear when the flowers are young and tender.  These Hellebores are said to be deer and rabbit resistant.
 These aged gflowers of Helleborus x ericsmithii will soon be finished as they are sterile and do not set viable seed.

These aged flowers of Helleborus x ericsmithii will soon be finished as they are sterile and do not set viable seed.


Propagation of Helleborus x ericsmithii is done by tissue culture or you can carefully divide your plant after is has finished blooming. Be careful when dividing the plants and do not damage the roots. Look at your nearby nursery or garden centre for many newer varieties which have a broader range of flower colors and variegation in the leaves. Many of the new plants are spectacular and can be hard to track down.

Hunting for this Hellebore:

The book about Hellebore is a wealth of information: http://grahamrice.com/hellebore/species/ericsmithii/index.html

One of the more commonly found forms you can find at your garden centre: http://www.perennials.com/seeplant.html?item=1.256.760

Information on Eric Smith is hard to find: http://books.google.ca/books?id=6idvRAeex8IC&pg=PA165&lpg=PA165&dq=propagator+eric+smith+hellebores&source=bl&ots=XKUbK-HBxl&sig=O0cSVUj4SqZxf08pAkCNmWnjT6A&hl=en&ei=NU8zTdyyM5TmsQPkwOmtBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBzgK#v=onepage&q=propagator%20eric%20smith%20hellebores&f=false

……Until we meet again in the sun or showers…..

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This time of year, no matter where I am, up north in deep snow, down on the coast in the rain or somewhere else when the sun comes out I want to either work a garden or explore in the woods.  This year the spring weather has come extraordinarily early and since I have recently moved I have started explore new areas in the city. My first stop was to change my library card and to explore  Colquitz River Trail which runs along the river of the same name. I was hunting for the not so elusive Osoberry or Indian Plum(Oemleria cerasiformis)plants which are in bloom now, I stalked along the walk and …..alongside the path were several!

 The Oemleria cerasiformis is one of the first native plants to bloom.

The Osoberry is one of the first native plants to bloom.

On gloomy wet days when I go for a walk I see these shrubs with their glistening white racemes of pure white flowers which hang from the tips of branches like  perfect dew drop earings. The Osoberry is a small tree or more commonly shrub which lives on the Pacific side of the coastal mountains, its range is from Santa Barbara County in U.S.A. north though into southern B.C. One of its common names refers to the fruit (fleshy drupes) which when ripe look like tiny thumb-sized Italian plums, and indeed they have stones  which are also perfect miniatures of that fruit.

The Indian Plum has plentiful fruits, but you better be quick to harvest them.

The Indian Plum has plentiful fruits, but you better be quick to harvest them.

The fruit is ripe when it is bluish black and was eaten by local native groups, they savored them fresh, cooked and dried.   Oso(berry) refers to bears liking to eat them. Birds (Robins), squirrels, deer, coyotes and many other animals love to feast on the fruit as well. Let us not forget the bees which enjoy this early source of nectar.

Indian Plums can be found in many parks here, this group is found by the bathrooms at Beacon Hill Park.

Indian Plums can be found in many parks here, this group is found by the bathrooms at Beacon Hill Park.

Native people also used parts of the Osmaronia cerasiformis medicinally.  Burned twigs were pulverized, mixed with Oolican grease and applied to sores. A tea made from the bark was used as a purgative and tonic. Decotions where made for tuberculosis. It is said to be not only anesthetic  but an aphrodisiac as well. Osoberry is a member of the Rosaceae(Rose family) whos seeds often have small amounts of hydrogen cyanide in them. hydrogen cyanide from these types of sources  has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion if carefully administered by a professional.

Colquitz River Trail is a good area to view Osmaronia cerasiformis.

Colquitz River Trail is a good area to view Osmaronia cerasiformis.

To my eye Osoberry are vase-shaped shrubs which are delicate looking throughout the year, this is partly do to the attractive thin leaves which keep their bright green coloring until the fall when they change to a clear butter yellow. It is not a densely leaved shrub therefore it never looks heavy or lumpy, but has a more wispy quality to it. In the winter without leaves the form of these shrubs can be highlighted.

Finnerty Garden has done a wonderful job pruning their Osoberry into small tree forms.

Finnerty Garden has done a wonderful job pruning their Osoberry into small tree forms.

Osoberry is seen in many areas here, along paths, roadsides, meadow edges  and creeks and in many rocky areas growing under the Garry Oaks. They are in full sun or dappled light. They like rich humusy soils which can retain some moisture during our dry summers here. if they become too dry during the summer they will start to drop some of their leaves. They take pruning very well and this should be done after they have bloomed. They usually are pruned for shape but also can be cut to the ground to revive them and tidy them up.

Osoberry are male or female plants and often grow in thickets under Garry Oaks as seen here at Government House.

Osoberry are male or female plants and often grow in thickets under Garry Oaks as seen here at Government House.

Indian Plum are male or female plants. If you want a good crop of berries for the wildlife or you, you will have to have both sexes of plants.  I have seen incredible crops of berries and have made tasty syrups and jellies which are similar to cherry flavor. These plants grow to 6m(20ft) high and 3.7m wide in places where they are most happy. They are rated zones 7 though 10, cold tolerant to -18c(10f).

This unripe crop of Indian Plums is high above my head.

This unripe crop of Indian Plums is high above my head.

Help for hunting Indian Plums:

Rainyside has an interesting page: http://www.rainyside.com/features/plant_gallery/nativeplants/Oemleria_cerasiformis.html

Technical information on the berry: http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Oemleria%20cerasiformis

Paghats’ Indian Plum page: http://www.paghat.com/indianplum.html

Until we meet again later….

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Many parking lots and other institutions have parking lots and landscaping which is populated by tough hardy and often broadleaved evergreen plants. These plants have to be attractive and durable and tolerate being neglected. Many of these plants are just green and a background with no real features. A select few are standouts and should be seen in other settings more often. Viburnum tinus (Laurustinus) is a great plant which is attractive and versatile in many ways.

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus(Laurustinus) is used as an informal hedge outside this fence.

Viburnum tinus has been in cultivation for a long time. This is probably do to the fact that is comes from the Mediterranean, an area which is one of the first areas where gardens were developed for pleasure. We do know that it was brought to Great Britain at least 500 years ago and many old plants are found there. It’s evergreen nature and sweet scented flowers which bloom late in the year probably attracted attention to it for use as a decorative plant.

Laurustinus

During the winter Laurustinus is a great show which it's many heads of rosey buds waiting to open.

The common name Laurustinus is thought to refer to the leaves which resemble those of the Bay Tree(Laurus nobilis). The Latin name Viburnum refers to this genus of plant but is thought not to refer to this particular species. the Latin meaning of ‘tinus’ is said to be the true ‘ancient’ name of this plant. It seems to me that Laurustinus is best described as a ‘Bay-leaved Viburnum’.

Viburnum tinus flowers

Although the flowers of Viburnum tinus are small, they are highly fragrant.

Viburnums are from the Carpifoliaceae family which includes many fragrant plants such as Honeysuckles, Beautybush and Twinflower. Laurustinus has a spicy sweet floral scent when in bloom. Other people say that it can have an unpleasant scent which may come from the leaves when they are growing early in the year. I know that the wild Viburnum which grows around here gives off an acidic scent in the fall when it sheds its leaves, it is a scent that I associate with autumn and look forward to experiencing every year. Scent is such a personal thing, one persons perfume is anothers most hated smell!

Laurustinus fruit

Often you will see Viburnum tinus blooming when there still are fruit on the bush.

Viburnum tinus have attractive drupes(fruit) which have a metallic steely blue black color, they are more sporadic and often do not develop well. The fruit of this species is not known to be edible and are said to cause stomach upset, this probably is do to the high acid content. The glossy smooth edged leaves, attractive berries and fragrant but delicate flowers make this a showy plant all year round. the added bonus is Laurustinus is easy to grow too.

The glossy leaves and red tints of the flower buds make Laurustinus attractive in the winter.

Growing Laurustinus is easy. They need well drained soil which is fertile and on the gritty side as they do not like overly wet roots. They do the best in a sunny location for the best flowering. They also tolerate dappled or shaded sites as well. they also are tolerant of ocean exposure and more chalky sites. They can grow to between 2 and 4.5m(6- 15ft)  in height and width depending on the variety you choose. This is a densely leaved plant which is excellent mass planting, informal hedges, winter gardens, shrub borders or containers. It is best to prune it for shape after it has finished blooming. There are several named forms which are more compact and one which is variegated, but is less cold tolerant. These plants are rated for zones 7 though9 (-10c or 10f).

More about Laurustinus:

Paghat’s post: http://www.paghat.com/viburnumtinus.html

Plants for a Future have some interesting notes: http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Viburnum+tinus

Oregon State University page:http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/viti-i.htm

*****Next Week I will be moving and will not be posting, I hope to post on the following Sunday Febuary 7th.  See you in 2 weeks!*****

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At this time of the year I sneak  outside between rain storms  and check out my favorite gardens to see how the plants are getting along. It is a difficult time of year, often so wet and warm. many plants are weighed down by the rain and some become almost flattened by the weight of the water hanging on branches and stems. Large flowers can become discolored and droop badly. A genus of plants which is often overlooked until this time of year are Sweet Box or Saracocca which put on a fragrant bright show every year.

Sweet Box also known as Sarcocca

A lovely, healthy Sweet Box (Sarcococca humilis) hedge used as an edging at Finnerty Gardens.

Sweet Box are from east and south east Asia and ranging through China into the Himalyan Mountains. The first type was brought to Europe in 1901 was Sarococca ruscifolia. It is native to western Hubei, Sichuan and Yunnan where it grows on shady shady cliffs which are often  made of Limestone.  This species was originally discovered and collected by Augustine Henry in 1887.  Another species from the same area is S. humilis which is smaller and more refined in it’s growth.  S. hookeriana is the species found the farthest west and is found in the Himalayans and into Nepal, forms of it are found growing with the others in China.  It is unknown exactly where S. confusa originates, but one can guest it was near the others.

Sarcococca flowers.

Sarcococca are commonly called Sweet Box because of the wonderful fragrance of their small flowers.

One often does not notice Sarcococca until one day you walk by one which is in bloom and the fragrance attracts your attention. The scent is quite potent and fills areas especially on the occasional warm day at this time of the year.  These plants have powerful alkaloids and other constituents which make them less attractive to insects, disease and fungus which attack other genus. The powerful chemicals are recognized in Asian medicines and extracts are used in topical medications as well as in tonics.  The name of the extract sold by Chinese herbalists is ‘Qing Xiang  Gui’.

The drupes of Sarcococca are large compared to the flowers and add a colorful addition to the plant.

The drupes of Sarcococca are large compared to the flowers and add a colorful addition to the plant.

Sweet Box are an easy adaptable plant which is underused. It has attractive smaller foliage which is pleasingly elliptical and glossy green. Species such as ruscifolia, confusa and hookeriana can be used as low hedging which grows to 4ft(1.2m) and can easily be clipped and shaped.  S. humilis and it’s forms are lower growing and more suckering, it can be used as a low groundcover or mass planted. They are also an essential addition to any winter garden. All Sarcococca tolerate shade to deep shade (if you are willing to forgo the flowering) and make excellent understory plants.

Sarcococca humilis

The low growing Sarcococca humilis is planted behind the sign here in Finnerty Gardens

Growing Sweet Box is easy as they are not fussy plants and have no real pests or disease to deal with.  as they are woodland plants they like rich humusy soil which will retain some moisture sureing the drier seasons. They tolerate some lime better than many other species.  Placement is best where they get some morning sun but none later in the day as they will  yellow and burn in the summer. Dappled light is an excellent situation for them. They are classed as slow growing shrubs so they will not outgrow a space quickly.

The winter garden at Government House has a large Sarcococca in bloom right now.

Sarcococca are rated at zones 7 -9(-15c or 0-10f). S. rucifolia, confusa and hookeriana grow 1.2m(4ft) by the same. S. humilis and it’s forms are generally no more than 1m(3ft) and some forms grow only half that height.

Sweet Box links:

very detailed article about Sweet Box: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2732/

Paghat’s Garden article on S. ruscifolia: http://www.paghat.com/saracococca.html

Finnerty Gardens: http://external.uvic.ca/gardens/

Until we meet again soon…..

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Sometimes a plant will bloom out of season, it might be that there is an unexpected warm spell which causes the buds to open. Other times blooming may be irregular and over a long time with no real pinnacle of flowering. Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is often a combination of sporadic blooming in December and then breaking out in a frosty shimmery pink through mid to late January. This year the shimmering icy pink blossoms are making their appearance a little early.

Rhododendron Christmas Chee

The light pink blossoms of Rhododendron Christmas Cheer do look beautiful when the sun comes out here.

I alway notice a few blooms when I am in Sidney in late December and this helps me remember the name of the plant. The name ‘Christmas Cheer’ interestingly  refers to it’s one time use for forcing at Christmas time in bouquets and other indoor decoration during the Victorian era.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is a hybrid of unknown age although it is thought to originate in the 1830s’. It parentage is also partly unknown as well. What is known is that R. causaicum is one parent and was introduced into cultivation in 1803.  Rhododendron causaicum is a plant which comes from Caucasus in north eastern Turkey and  the surrounding area. It is a plant that has long been in cultivation and has been used extensively in development of old and new hybrids. One plant which may be considered a twin to ‘Christmas Cheer’ is R. ‘Rosa Mundi’ which is said to be slightly more compact and bloom one week later.

Rhododendron 'Rosa Mundi'

It seems to me that Rhododendron 'Rosa Mundi' blossoms are paler and more frilly.

R. ‘Christmas Cheer’ is restrained in all it’s parts. The leaves are mid green and have a pleasing narrow elliptical shape . the plant itself is densely branched so there are generally no unsightly gaps to see through. The flowers are delicate in color and size with slightly wavy edges. They are not in the least damaged by frosts and seem to stand up well to the monsoon rains by drooping or discoloring.

Rhododendron Christmas Cheer

This Rhododendron Christmas Cheer is covered with icy pink trusses of delicate flowers.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ and ‘Rosa Mundi’ are some of the hardiest Rhododendrons. they are tolerant of temperatures as low as -20c(-10f) so these are good plants for colder areas in which Rhododendrons can be grown. As with all broadleaved evergreens location is important to bright the best out in your plant.  They appreciate being protected from cold drying winds that can occur during winter months. They like to be located in part to full shade. They are said to be more drought tolerant than other Rhodies’ and that may explain why some are located in more water challenged positions than others. They like rich well drained soil which has extra compost added to retain moisture during the dry summer months.

'Christmas Cheer' Rhododendrons

A couple of large and leggy 'Christmas Cheer' Rhododendrons found at Government House.

Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ and ‘Rosa Mundi’ are fairly common here, you will often see them in parks here.They are popular being that they are slow growing and generally attain only 1.2m(4ft) in 10 years which makes them suitable for smaller gardens and yards. At maximum they will grow to 2m(6ft) high and wide. They work nicely in shady shrub or perennial borders at a mid depth. They also are included as a winter feature or specimen. They light up areas in these dark days which does bring cheer to us all.

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer'

Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer' should be seen in more gardens.

More about ‘Christmas Cheer’ Rhododendrons and their relatives:

American Rhododendron Society page: http://www.rhododendron.org/descriptionH_new.asp?ID=455

Description of Rosa Mundi (Rosamundi) Rhododendron: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/rhros.htm

Rhododendron caucasicum:  http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=120&taxon_id=242442794

Until we meet again later…

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This is an article I wrote for ‘The Society of Friends of  St Ann’s Academy‘.  St Ann’s Academy is where  most of the pictures for this article were taken.

One job I have done at St. Ann’s Academy is checking the plants(trees and shrubs) listed as growing here in 1986 was correct. For the most part the list was correct, some had trees had been removed due to damage or illness. Many new plants had to be added to the list by 2004 when I started doing this work. This was because of the reworking of many areas including the formal driveway, parking lot, courtyard and most especially the Novitiate Garden which had not existed before. Many of the new plants are common such as Box and Yew which are suitable for the style of building and it’s age, others are more decorative. One plant special plant is hidden in the corner of the Novitiate Garden To see it you have to climb the stairs at the back of the church to be able to view it. This plant is the wonderful Mahonia x (media) ‘Charity’ a formidable cousin of our well-known Oregon Grape.

This Mahonia x 'Charity found at St Ann's Academy will bloom for months.

This Mahonia x 'Charity found at St Ann's Academy will bloom for months.

Mahonia x ‘Charity’ is one of several named seedlings of a cross of two species which are native to Asia; M. Japonica and M. Lomarifolia. This crossing was done at the famous Slieve Donard Nursery in Northern Ireland in about 1950. From the seedlings which prospered several were selected for their special qualities and named. They were named by the famous plantsman Christopher Brickwell ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’ Of these three ‘Charity has become the most famous and easily obtainable, why this is I am not sure. I can say every time I see this plant; no matter where it has been or the season, I am impressed.

Mahonia x Charity spring growth.

The wonderful color of the new growth contrasts nicely with the exterior or Government House in Victoria.

Mahonia x ‘Charity’ is one of those gems which blooms in the winter season and then produces a great flush of wine tinted foliage followed by a great show of berries in the spring. The many small flowers are a buttery yellow and held upright on long racemes which are at the top of the plant. The flowers bloom from the base of the racemes up and continue to open for several weeks and not damaged by frosts. The golden spikes are quite a show being 2 ft(1.5m) tall and wide as well as being fragrant.

Mahonia x 'Charity' spring foliage and berries coloring up.

Mahonia x Charity has wonderful spring foliage color and a large crop of berries begining to color up, all feaures worthy of a star plant.

The leaves are typical Mahonia like, but, in giant proportions. Each leaf is made up of an average 17 leaflets. ‘Mahonia x Charity’ leaves are a typical thick leathery medium green with spines along the edges and tip.They can get a reddish tinge in the cooler months that is attractive. The leaves also have a subtle glossiness which looks good all year-round.

Mahonia x Charity leaves and flowers.

The leaves and flower raceme of Mahonia x 'Charity are huge compared to others of the species.

With such large leaves and big flower spikes you would expect big stems and you are right, although they look elegant because this is a multi-stemmed beast. The stems light brown color nicely contrasts with the green leaves.The whole plant can grow to be dense with closely held foliage if it is placed in the right location. Mahonia x ‘Charity’ like to placed where they are in dappled sun during the bright summer months, then with full sun during their flowering season which is anywhere from late October into March depending on where you are. Here it blooms every year during October and November(which is why I am writing about it now).

Mahonia x Charity

This Mahonia x Charity is found at Glendale Gardens and shows off it stems which are quite attractive.

Mahonia x ‘Charity’ prefers rich moisture retentive soil. It is best to place it in a spot where it gets some shade as it will be more yellowed otherwise.You have to be patient with this plant as it is slow to establish and may take several years before it blooms for you. It needs a good-sized space 8 ft(2.5m) by 6 to 8 ft(2-2.5m) wide to be comfortable. It is a very versatile shrub which looks good all year especially now. It is commonly used as a specimen, for winter interest, in large borders which can be mixed shrubs and or with perennials. If you have the space you won’t be disappointed in this Deer resistant shrub.

Buttery yellow Mahonia x Charity flowers.

Each flower spike is made up of many tiny, highly fragrant, buttery yellow blossoms.

More on Mahonia x Charity:
Gardeners’ World page on this plant: http://www.gardenersworld.com/plant-detail/PL00080263/11042/lily-of-the-valley-bush

Bellevue Botanical Garden page on the plant: http://www.bellevuebotanical.org/plantmonth/fmplantmonthindex.html

Until We Meet Again Later…..

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When I was a small child we used to play by the hill which was close to our house. One day as we explored the trails at the bottom we discovered these strange nut-like things in the shrubs and took them home to show our parents who told us they were wild or Beaked Hazelnuts(Corylus cornuta). We then had to gather them in their itchy prickly cases as they were still green. We knew if we waited to long the squirrels would get them and would leave the empty and decayed ones behind.

Common European Hazelnut, Corylus avellana.

Common European Hazelnut, Corylus avellana.

Later on we found our grandparents had a large Hazelnut bush but it was different; it was the Common or European Hazelnut (Corylus avellana) which is grown as a commercial crop. It’s nuts are much bigger and their casings are much smaller and less prickly too. Many years later having moved far away to Vancouver Island I was out with my sister and her young son at Denham Till Park and guess what we found, an old Hazelnut grove!

Old Hazelnut Grove at Denham Till Park in North Saanich.

Old Hazelnut Grove at Denham Till Park in North Saanich.

I had by this time shown her the ”very cool’ Corkscrew Hazelnut( Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) which was located at the library in Sidney near were she lived.

Corkscrew Hazelnut, Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

Corkscrew Hazelnut, Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

It’s interesting to think that a plain straight branched plant can give us a twisting ‘sport’ which was found accidentally in a Gloucestershire hedgerow in the 1860s. We must thank the unknown person who stumbled upon it and had the foresight to save it for all in the future to enjoy. Corkscrew Hazelnuts shine at this time of the year with their pale butter yellow catkins hanging amongst the mass of writhing branches which reminds one of Medusa’s tresses.

The Male Catkins Hanging in the Medusa-like Corkscrew Hazelnut branches.

The Male Catkins Hanging in the Medusa-like Corkscrew Hazelnut branches.

 If you see a Corylus avellana ‘Contorta you are not likely to forget it, even the leaves have a wierd look to them because they have the same kind of slight twistiness to them.  As you can see this can become a large dense shrub which should be given a spotlight like location to show itself off. Most of these shrubs are grafted which can lead to problems from the under-graft sending up straight shoots which must be removed as soon as they can be easily handled. Spring is also a good time to do any pruning for the odd awkward branches that need removal.

Vigorous Shoots Coming up From the Under-graft Should Be Removed Now.

Vigorous Shoots Coming up From the Under-graft Should Be Removed Now.

These are slow growing shrubs which can grow to 8-10ft by 6-8ft wide.  Corkscrew Hazelnuts are easy to grow as they are not fussy about soil as long as it’s well drained. they do best in full sun or slight shade. It is best to select your plant when it does not have its’s leaves yet as you will be able to see it’s form better.  Although this is a ‘nut’ plant do not expect any to be produced.  It looks delightful under-planted with low growing plants which bring attention to its attractive bark.

The Attractive Bark on Corylus avallana 'Contorta'

The Attractive Bark on Corylus avallana 'Contorta'

 Links to Learn From:  

European or Common Hazelnut : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corylus_avellana

Denham Till Park in North Saanich:  http://www.northsaanich.ca/Municipal_Hall/Departments/Parks_and_Trails/Parks_Information/Municipal_Parks/Denham_Till_Park.htm

Corkscrew Hazelnuts : http://www.mobot.org/GARDENINGHELP/PLANTFINDER/Plant.asp?code=C360

                                            http://www.rhs.org.uk/whatson/gardens/harlowcarr/archive/harlowcarrpom05mar.asp

 

Who knows what treasures you will find here next time.

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