Harry Lauder's Walking Stick Pruning, Propagating, General Care
Copyright 2011 McGroarty Enterprises Inc.

Botanically known as Corylus Avellana Contorta, Harry Lauder's Walking Stick is one of the most interesting interesting plants you can put in your landscape, and probably one of the least understood.

This wonderful plant with it's array of twisted and contorted branches will happily grow in zones 4 through 8 and is one of the few plants that really has no serious disease or insect pest problems.  The biggest problem with these plants to date is the amount of suckering that grows up from the root stock.  However, today through means of creative propagation more and more of these plants are being grown on their own roots, and this completely solves the problem of undesirable suckers.

 

On this page you will discover an interesting technique for propagating Harry Lauder's Walking Stick.

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Harry Lauder's Walking Stick is truly a plant lovers plant.  Many people at first site are repelled by the appearance of this plant.  Why, I'm not sure, it has been one of my favorites since I first laid eyes on it.

Yeah, I'll admit that the big crazy looking leaves don't exactly jump out at you and say; "Wow!  Look at me!"  But we have enough plants clamoring for our attention during spring and summer.  Harry Lauder's Walking Stick is at it's best during the winter months after the leaves have fallen off.  See the above winter time photo to see what I mean.

     

Again, a summer photo of Harry Lauder's Walking Stick and a winter photo.  But with a "twist" pun intended.  Typically this plant is grown in shrub form, and occasionally you'll find one that has been grafted onto a straight root stock, which really baffles me because the crazy twisted branches on top of a straight stem clearly look like a mismatch to me. 

So what I like to do is get the plants when they are small and train them to grow as single stem plants with no grafting involved.  That way the stem is also twisted and contorted.  I simply select the strongest branch that I can move into a vertical position and train it to grow upright by tying  it to a plant stake.  When that single stem reaches a height of about 50 or 60 inches I clip off the top so it will quit growing upright and I allow the side branches to grow out.  As the tree starts to develop a pretty good head I start removing the lower side branches until I have a single stem Harry Lauder's Walking Stick like you see in the above two photos.  It's important not to remove the lower branches until the tree has an adequate number of leaves up top to support the plant.  Remember, plants need good leaf structure for the process of photosynthesis.

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As a side note you can way train a lot of other shrubs into single stem plants by doing the same thing that I just described.  It's a lot of fun and you end up with some really interesting plants.

I took the above two photos when this tree was quite young.  I originally grew the plant in my nursery, then moved into my the landscaping at my nephew's house.  They sold that house but I go by it all the time and long for that tree.  To see it now, years later it is absolutely  the most cool looking plant you've ever seen.  I am in the process of training a couple for my own landscape.

For years the propagation of Harry Lauder's Walking Stick was an involved process that required first the growing of a Filbert to use as a rootstock, then the Walking Stick was grafted onto the Filbert.  It was a pretty slow process.  Today many of them are grown on their own roots, and one of the most reliable ways to root them is through the art of layering.

 

 What you see in the above photo is a very young Harry Lauder's Walking Stick.  This specimen was actually propagated via Grafting.  I have to brag and tell you that I bought ten of these from one of my customers for $4.50 each.  These plants typically sell in garden centers and on the internet for $79.00 or more for plants in two gallon containers. I also bought about 20 rare Japanese Maples to add to my collection from two different customers of mine.

When I started selling my Backyard Growing System it never dawned on me that I'd end up buying plants from my own customers.  To me that is really, really cool.  I am very proud of what those folks accomplish.

 This is a rather unique method of propagating Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, but it works really well.  Notice in both photos that I've twisted a piece of twist tie material around the stem right below the bud union.  This twist tie should be quite snug.  The restriction it creates actually assists in the formation of new roots when the plant is layered.  Bud unions are the little bumps along the stem of a plant where new buds are about to emerge.  Notice that I put the twist tie below the bud union so as to not damage the bud union.

After doing this I planted the roots of the plant in the ground, then I bent the top over and buried the section of the plant with the twist tie in a separate hole several inches away from the roots, leaving part of the stem exposed and out of the ground.   Then I bent the very top of the plant back up and out of the ground.  This method of propagation is known as Layering, and there is more information and diagrams on this page.

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by Michael J. McGroarty
Copyright 2011