Sometimes twisted zig-zags are more interesting than straight and narrow. While we usually looking for ramrod strigh trunks, clean lines and formal branching, sometimes we want something crazy, contorted and unique. These four plants will fit the bill when you are looking for plants with twisted branching.
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick
Harry Lauders Walking Stick Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’
A deciduous large shrub or small tree with a crazy contorted branching habit. This is a great accent plant or specimen due its multiple seasons of interest. Pendulous yellow catkins in late winter are followed by large crinkly green leaves in spring which turn yellow in fall. After the leaves drop, the true feature of the plant becomes amazingly evident. Its branches turn and twist in every direction. Quite striking when uplit in winter. Grows 10-12ft in height and a similar spread. This plant does best in full sun to part shade.
It is quite adaptable to both dry and moist areas. It is tolerant of urban settings and will even do well in inner city environments. Hardy to zone 6.
Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’
Red Harry Lauders Walking StickCorylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’ A variety of the classic Harry Lauders Walking Stick with red crinkled and ridged leaves. A unique large shrub or small deciduous tree with distinct, twisted and curled branches. Leaves are also twisted and become brighter in fall. Weeping purple catkins hang on bare branches in winter. Ideal as an accent, hedge or specimen. Grows to 7ft tall and wide. Best in full sun. Hardy to zone 3.
Robinia ‘Twisty Baby’
Twisty Baby Robinia
‘Twisty Baby’ is a cultivated variety of Black Locust, a native deciduous North American tree and is an excellent specimen or focal point for the garden. Twisted branching and tightly growing leaf clusters that hang offer unique interest to the garden. Foliage turns yellow in fall. Some spines may be present on the branches. Although it is not a reliable bloomer, when it does, it produces pendulous, fragrant white, pea-like flowers. It is drought and pest resistant. Best grown in sun to part shdae in rich, well drained soils. Can grow 8-10ft in height with a slightly larger spread. Hardy to zone 4
Scarlet Curls Willow
Scarlet Curls Willow
Salix matsudana ‘Scarlet Curls’
A fast growing deciduous tree with red to orange winter bark and shoots. Branching is contorted and twisted but maintains a loose, spreading growth habit. Leaves are lance-shaped and bright green. Offers great winter colour and interest. As with all willows, plant them away from underground pipes as their roots are prone to wandering as they seek out water sources. Grows best in sun to part shade. Height 20-30ft. Spread 12-15ft. Hardy in zones 6-9
Corkscrew Willow / Dragons Claw Willow
Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’
A fast growing deciduous tree (usually multi-stemmed) with an oval rounded crown and corkscrew-like branching. Often used as a specimen in the landscape. Neon green long, twisty foliage appears in spring while loosely contorted branching add year round interest. A native to China and Korea first brought to North America in the 1920’s. Will reach a height of 20-30ft at maturity. Best grown in sun and moist soils. Hardy to zone 4.
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Art’s Nursery prides itself on its talented and experienced horticultural staff and service people. If you’ve got a question – they’ll try to find the answer!
By Julie Christensen
If you love willows, you just might want to try a corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’). Unlike weeping willows, these trees have an upright form. The branches and twigs initially grow almost vertically before moving to a more horizontal growth. The branches have a twisted appearance and are often used in dried floral displays. In the summer, the branches dance and quiver in the wind. During the winter, their curving shape provides interest in the landscape. Another good thing about corkscrew willow is its fast growth. Like most willows, it grows 24 inches or more in one year, reaching a mature height of 25 to 30 feet with a spread of 15 to 20 feet.
Now for the bad news: like other willows, corkscrew willow is short-lived. Most fast-growing trees have brittle branches and are prone to breakage. Corkscrew willow is no exception. Although corkscrew willow is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, if you live in an area prone to high winds or ice storms, you’re going to constantly battle branch breakage. Regardless of where you live, avoid planting corkscrew willows near the house or over the driveway or street where falling branches can cause damage.
Another challenge with corkscrew willows is their aggressive roots. The tree has shallow, moisture-seeking roots that can wreak havoc in sewer lines and cause damage to patios and sidewalks. Plant them well away from any plumbing lines and hard surfaces and keep the soil slightly moist to discourage the roots from wandering.
In the right location, with the right care, corkscrew willow makes a beautiful specimen tree. Plant it carefully and expect to replace it in about 15 years.
Planting Corkscrew Willow
Corkscrew willows are generally propagated from cuttings. Buying a nursery transplant is the easiest way to get started. Plant your willow tree in an area with full sun to partial shade. While corkscrew willows are adaptable to most soil types, they do best with a slightly moist loam. In sandy soils, the water leaches too quickly and you’ll have to water them frequently. In clay soils that drain poorly, they’re more prone to root rot diseases.
Plant corkscrew willow anytime from early spring through late summer. In mild climates, you may be able to plant corkscrew willow almost year-round. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide and set the tree in the hole. The top of the root ball should sit about 1 inch above the surrounding soil. Fill the hole halfway with soil and then add 2 gallons of water to the hole. Allow it to drain and fill the hole with the remainder of the soil. Tamp it down lightly with your foot.
Leave an area 2 to 3 feet in diameter bare under the tree and mulch it with 2 inches of mulch. Corkscrew willows are very susceptible to damage from lawn mowers and trimmers, which can open the trunk to disease. Keeping an area grass-free eliminates this danger.
Water corkscrew willow at least weekly during the first season so the soil stays consistently moist 1 inch beneath the surface. Thereafter, you can water slightly less often. Unless your soil is very poor, you probably don’t need to fertilize corkscrew willow. If growth is slow and the leaves are pale, fertilize it in the spring with 1 cup 10-10-10 fertilizer spread over the soil under the canopy of the tree. If the tree is planted within a fertilized lawn, it probably gets enough nutrients.
Prune corkscrew willows annually to remove any branches that are diseased or that rub against each other. You can also remove branches to open the tree up to more light. After a storm, remove any broken branches promptly.
Pests and Diseases
A number of pests and diseases plague corkscrew willow, although most of them cause only cosmetic damage. Aphids infest willows by the droves in spring. They suck the juices from the leaves and stems, causing wilting. They also leave a sticky substance called honeydew, which can attract sooty mold – a slightly fuzzy, black growth. Aphids can be treated with a dose of insecticidal oil, although treating large trees is impractical. In most cases, predatory insects will move in and control aphid populations.
Gypsy moths, imported willow beetles and borers can also be a problem. The best defense is a good offense since healthy trees can usually fend off these attackers. Plant the tree in full sun and provide regular watering. Fertilize it if growth is slow.
The most serious disease to afflict corkscrew willows is galls or root rots. You might notice black or brown growths at the foot of the trunk. Over time, these galls can grow and cause tree death. Removal of the tree is usually eventually necessary.
Corkscrew willows are susceptible to leaf spots and powdery mildew. Treatment is rarely necessary.
For more information visit the following link:
Corkscrew Willow from the University of Florida IFAS Extension
Julie Christensen learned about gardening on her grandfather’s farm and mother’s vegetable garden in southern Idaho. Today, she lives and gardens on the high plains of Colorado. When she’s not digging in the dirt, Julie writes about food, education, parenting and gardening.
Twisted Hazelnut Trees – How To Grow A Contorted Filbert Tree
These shrubs or small trees – called both contorted filbert trees and twisted hazelnut trees – grow upright on curiously twisted trunks. The shrub immediately catches the eye with its unique features. Caring for a contorted hazelnut tree (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) is not difficult. Read on for more information about how to grow contorted filbert trees.
Contorted Filbert Trees
The trunks of twisted hazelnut trees/contorted filbert trees grow to 10 or 15 feet tall and are so twisted that gardeners give the tree the nickname “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick.” The branches are also uniquely curled and twisted.
The other ornamental feature about the trees are the male catkins. They are long and golden and hang from the branches of the tree beginning in winter, providing visual interest long after leaf drop. In time, the catkins develop into edible hazelnuts, otherwise known as contorted hazelnut tree nuts.
The leaves of the species tree are green and toothed. If you want more pizazz in
the summer, purchase the cultivar “Red Majestic” that offers maroon/red leaves instead.
How to Grow a Contorted Filbert Tree
Grow contorted filbert trees/twisted hazelnut trees in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9 in well-drained, fertile soil. The tree accepts acidic or alkaline soil and can be planted in full sun or partial shade.
For best results, purchase a tree with its own rootstock, as this will avoid suckers. Many trees offered in commerce are grafted to another rootstock and produce myriad suckers.
Caring for a Contorted Hazelnut Tree
Once you have planted your twisted hazelnut tree in an appropriate location, you won’t be called upon to exert much effort on its behalf. Its growing requirements are very simple.
First, the contorted hazelnut tree requires moist soil. You need to irrigate it frequently after planting and, even after it is established, continue providing water on a regular basis if the weather is dry.
Next, and most important, is to cut out suckers if they appear. Contorted hazelnut trees grafted to different rootstock will tend to produce many suckers that should not be left to develop.
Like other shrubs, twisted hazelnut trees may fall victim to insect pests or diseases. One disease of particular concern is Eastern filbert blight. It occurs primarily in the eastern half of the country as well as Oregon.
If your tree comes down with the blight, you will notice flowers and foliage turning brown, wilting and dying. Look also for cankers on limbs, especially in the upper canopy. The fungus causing the disease passes between trees through airborne spores in wet weather.
Your best bet in dealing with Eastern filbert blight is avoiding it by planting resistant cultivars. If your tree is already attacked, wait until dry weather then trim away all infected limbs and burn them.
For those of us in the northern parts of the U.S., the idea of “winter interest” can be vastly overrated. Birds and deer devour colorful berries before the end of December, and drying winds scorch and tatter evergreen foliage. Multi-day stretches of sub-freezing temperatures zap almost all of the perennials and bulbs touted as being winter bloomers, delaying flowers for weeks or months, and heavy snow can cover the ground layer anyway.
Some years, intriguing stems are about all we have to admire during the dead of winter. Woodies such as bright-barked shrubby dogwoods and willows are welcome for color, but the deer like them too, so it can be unwise to depend on them alone. Sometimes, shrubs with curiously contorted stems are about the best we have for truly unique winter features.
One of twisted shrubs that I’m becoming increasingly fond of is contorted quince (Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Contorta’). I’ve tried a few other flowering quinces, but they bloom for such a short time and look so twiggy and uninteresting the rest of the year that I’ve removed all but this one.
Its form is much more open than the others, so its stems show off beautifully, and it’s easier to pick out dead leaves and other debris that catch on the very short but very sharp thorns. Contorted quince stems are lovely when dusted with snow and outstanding when encased in ice.
Winter interest isn’t its only good feature, either. The plant is naturally very compact (2 to 3 feet tall and wide), so it fits easily into a mixed border or foundation planting.
It’s also very pretty in bud and flower (usually early to mid-April here in southeastern PA).
Plum-sized, yellow fruits may follow the flowers if another quince is nearby, but they’re usually hidden among the rich green, slightly twisted leaves. I’ve read that the fruits are edible but sour, so I’ve never tried them; I just let the few that form drop off in fall. After 6 years, I’ve gotten only one seedling, and it too is contorted.
Reportedly hardy in Zones 5 to 9, contorted quince is available from a number of mail-order sources, including Raintree Nursery and Fairweather Gardens.
Another twisted shrub in the marginally edible category is ‘Flying Dragon’ hardy orange or bitter orange (Poncirus trifoliata).
Besides having an intriguing curvy shape, the stems are bright green all year, so they add color as well as form through the winter.
Small, white flowers line the stems in spring.
The orange-yellow fruits that follow are said to be edible but, like those of the contorted quince, very sour. They’re also very ornamental, so I prefer to leave them on the plant.
They eventually drop off by early to mid-winter. The abundant seeds seem to sprout readily, and many of the seedlings also show varying degrees of waviness in their stems and spines as they grow. The deep green leaves make an outstanding backdrop for lighter flowers and foliage.
And the luminous yellow fall color is absolutely outstanding.
‘Flying Dragon’ is usually rated for Zones 6 and south, so the “hardy” part of the name is relative: it’s relatively hardier than most other citrus fruits. The species can grow to 20 feet tall, but this selection stays smaller, fortunately (6 to 8 feet, usually), so it’s suitable for a mixed border; just keep it well away from paths, and give it plenty of room so you don’t have to keep it in check with frequent pruning (a daunting task even with full body armor, due to the seriously wicked spines). I occasionally cut out the tallest stems at the base to control the height of mine, and it’s quite a challenge to extricate them from those that remain, because the thorns can easily penetrate even leather gloves.
For that reason, hardy orange is not something I’d recommend for gardens shared with kids or pets. That being said, I recall a grouping of the species planted on the grounds of my college in an effort to keep students from taking a shortcut in one area; it definitely worked. So if you want to discourage deer, dogs, or nosy neighbors from wandering into your yard, a hedge of ‘Flying Dragon’ may be an option to consider. The tangled stems also seem to make great habitat for small birds; I imagine that they’re quite safe from predators in there. ‘Flying Dragon’ is available from Lazy S’s Farm and Gossler Farms Nursery, among other sources.
For completely thorn-free twists and turns, I suggest ‘Red Majestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’) instead. You’re probably already familiar with the green-leaved version (C. avellana ‘Contorta’), commonly called Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, which produces amazingly contorted and curled stems.
‘Red Majestic’ looks basically the same in outline, though it doesn’t seem to curl quite as much.
The main difference is its foliage, which emerges a rich, deep red.
By midsummer, it turns a plain to purple-tinged green.
Not much floral interest on this one; like other hazels, it has cylindrical catkins that dangle from the stems in winter. They’re interesting up close by not especially showy from more than a few feet away.
Generally rated for Zones 4 to 8, ‘Red Majestic’ is relatively new on the market, and a good-sized plant can be quite expensive. I was lucky enough to score a small one (about 1 foot tall, with two stems) five years ago, and it’s now about 3 feet tall, with four main stems.
I wouldn’t describe it as especially fast-growing, but if you can be patient, I’d encourage you to look for small plants to save money. Even more important than the size, though, is getting an own-root plant, if at all possible. Most contorted hazels are grafted onto regular hazel roots, and the rootstocks tend to send up many straight-stemmed shoots that must be pruned out frequently (ideally several times through the growing season, while they’re still small) to keep the contorted parts at their best. It’s very much worth seeking one grown on its own roots to eliminate that lifetime pruning commitment! A few sources for this selection include White Flower Farm, Gossler Farms Nursery, and ForestFarm. I don’t know whether they sell grafted or own-root plants, however, so I suggest asking before you order.
One other bit of trivia about this one: it appears that there are at least two strains of ‘Red Majestic’ in the trade. According to the patent filed for an even newer red-leaved, contorted-stem selection known as ‘Red Dragon’ (you can read the details here), DNA analysis indicates that there’s a genetic difference between ‘Red Majestic’ plants acquired from Klehm and from Spring Meadow Nursery. I have no idea if there’s any visible difference, though; it probably doesn’t matter which strain you get. Or, you may want to wait until ‘Red Dragon’ is available, because it’s supposed to hold its red coloration longer into the summer; there doesn’t seem to be any release date set at the moment, though.
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Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as “Hayefield.” There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies–all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
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