As we garden, we sometimes wish for things. When I first started, I wished for some shade as I had none. Eighteen years later I struggle to find sunny spots to put lilies and those under the willows lean at a severe angle to catch sun.
Then there are some plants which look great in one season, but are less noticeable in others. My corkscrew hazelnut is one of those plants. Put in the ground at least 15 years ago it had grown into a magnificent multi-stemmed shrub. In late fall and throughout the winter the twisting trunks and branches looked great and sparkled with a sprinkling of snow. It was a gathering place for the birds, which felt safe within. I would put big globs of peanut butter on the trunk or higher up on the branches and the birds would eat to their heart’s content. Once spring arrived the leaves would follow; large, crinkly looking coarse leaves which obscured the twists and bends of the branches. Frankly, this is one shrub which always looked better without its leaves. Well, I got my wish.
My garden is exposed to a northeasterly wind which blows over the houses blocks away. Then, it gathers speed through multiple grassy backyards, only to slow down in my garden. Two harsh winters in a row, and probably the dry spring, wreaked havoc with the corkscrew hazelnut. It was late in budding out; a few branches leafed out, but then it stopped.
I watered, and then it rained. We went away for a few days and I hoped to see many more leaves upon our return, but the shrub was barely clinging on. It was time to grab my loppers and pruning saw. This 10’x10’ specimen shrub now has been reduced to about four feet all around with a few taller leafed out branches sticking up. I am still hopeful I will get some growth this year to make it fill out a little bit again, but it is a sorry sight for sure. Meanwhile the corkscrew hazelnut in the front garden and the one in my neighbors’ front yard have both come through this winter just fine. Then, while visiting one of my favorite nurseries near me I wandered through their outdoor garden and noticed three large skeletal corkscrew hazelnuts. Just like mine, these three had leafed out in only a few spots while the rest of the branches were bare. On the one hand it made me feel slightly better I wasn’t the only one who experienced this severe winter die-back. On the other hand, I felt as bad for their loss as I do for mine. So, be careful what you wish for; that magnificent shrub in winter looks mighty sad in the very same state once the world has turned green again.