“Please cut that atrocity down,” I pleaded with my husband Tony. We were taking a survey of our new yard and gardens. This was the sixth house we had either purchased or contracted to have built in our forty-seven years of marriage.“It hides the AC perfectly,” he countered, “and it certainly isn’t without character and interest.”
“What is it, do you suppose?”
“I have no clue. I’m glad your gardening friend plans to visit later today, though. I bet she knows.”
Mary and I circled the property late in the afternoon. I spouted off about all the plant varieties that I could identify and she graciously offered her knowledge and experience on valuable tips and care.
I couldn’t wait to approach the gnarly growth that shielded the a/c for Tony.
“I really want to get rid of this, Mary!”
“Oh, you really don’t,” she seemed shocked. “This is a Harry Lauder Walking Stick, Carole, a valuable plant, intriguing addition to any garden, and word has it that everyone wants one.”
“Everyone? Not sure about that.”
She was adamant, “You can’t cut it down!”
Weeks later, I attended a Master Gardner’s Garden Tour. Visiting six gardens in a matter of two days, I was surprised to find three Harry’s among the gardens that were each worthy of a spread in “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine. I quickly became educated on the care and notoriety of the treasured plant.
It is a cultivar of Hazel, but it does not similarly produce nuts. First discovered in the 1800’s English countryside, it became prized for its twisted and entangled branches, its equally impressive gnarled trunk.
It is far from picky about location, does well in zones 4 through 8, and is also resistant to diseases or pests. A deciduous shrub, not considered invasive, Harry was trying to win me over.
Otherwise known as Corylus avellana “Contorta,” it can be planted in full sun or shade, acidic or alkaline soil, and requires little or no maintenance. I think I concur with my friend Mary, who wouldn’t want one? Indeed.
In late summer, Harry produces flowers resembling more like pods than blossoms. They are called catkins. If anyone should be the owner of a Harry Lauder Walking Stick, it is this author of a short story collection I titled Kat Tales.
Furnished with the know-how tips on beautifying Harry, I can’t wait to get out my pruning shears this fall. Right now Harry is growing on me, but look-out Harry!
And, by the way, Mr. Harry Lauder Walking Stick of whom I have become so fond, I have decided you could be a useful crutch for me in my old age, so stick around.