Through winter, flowers get battered down by winter storms and berries fall or are eaten by wildlife. But brightly coloured stems and contorted twigs resist anything nature hurls at them.
Finding colour and twisty twigs together in one plant family is quite unusual. But it does happen in hybrids of the Corkscrew Willow (Colden Curls and Scarlet Curls. Both are easy to grow and if kept small, are quite spectacular in the garden whether being lashed by rain or festooned with snow. Theyre also great Christmas decorating material.
Its better to prevent these two willow hybrids from growing into large trees because the twisted twigs whether golden or orange-red are brightest when young. When they grow tree-size, the twigs quickly become plain brown twisty branches bright only at the tips.
Also willows are so fast growing that tree branches are soon quite out of reach. Pollarding (pruning all or most branches close to the trunk) keeps brilliant, healthy new growth coming and keeps the tree within bounds. This should be done soon after the New Year while buds are still dormant.
Willows are much better neighbours if kept small. Thats because willows have weak, shallow roots, drop older branches and shed lots of twigs each winter.
Acreage gardens are the place for large willow trees. In large gardens, people can enjoy the beauty of their twigs against the sky. Willows are also so greedy for water, they can turn marginal swamps into something one can walk on.
Contorted Hazels (Corylus contorta) are more widely planted than Corkscrew Willows and much more tightly twisted. In winter they are intricately beautiful especially since masses of little catkins begin forming in late November.
Its a slow starter, but ultimately needs considerable pruning to stay within its space. Artistic relatives and friends usually like receiving bits, plus pruned branches make fantastical prisons for leaning plants.
In summer, Corkscrew Hazel is a nondescript mass of curly green leaves, but meanwhile it is making little nuts which attract blue flashes of Stellars Jays in late AugustMost are grafted and they do tend to sucker when the rootstock is stimulated by too much pruning. All these suckers will be straight.
If you can pull each sucker off early enough to tear off the growth bud in the root that will be the end of that particular sucker. It helps to use pliers and pull towards the tree.
If you luck into an own-root Contorted Hazel, all the suckers will be corkscrews. This means you can prune to your hearts content without ever having to deal with suckers
Contorted hazel can be kept indefinitely in a container top-pruned and root-pruned every few years. Keeping it on pot feet is best because roots can easily make their way through drainage holes.
I was in a Langley garden once and noticed an imposing row of very tall cotoneaster shrubs all in smallish pots and planted in a straight line unusually close together near the front door. They were a mass of pretty red berries but also view-blockers.
It turned out they had begun life as seedlings one to a pot time had moved on and so had the roots which had found their own escape routes. Now there was no moving them at all.
Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via firstname.lastname@example.org
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