Beyond the Blooms – Shrubs with Multi-Season Interest

Beyond the Blooms – Shrubs with Multi-Season Interest
  • Posted January 8, 2017

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, Contorted Filbert, Corkscrew Hazelnut

Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, Contorted Filbert, Corkscrew Hazelnut, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’

Rarely does a deciduous plant have so many interesting features without its foliage! The heart-shaped, lightly crinkled green foliage in spring and summer is interesting on its own, and turns golden yellow in the fall before dropping, exposing artistically contorted, gnarled and spiraling branches.

Pendulous, 2-3" long, greenish yellow catkins appear in late winter to spring and are very showy, as well.

The variety 'Red Dragon' has all the twisted craziness of 'Contorta', but the summer foliage is a deep burgundy wine.

Since the appearance of Harry Lauder's Walking Stick is so unique, people either love it or hate it! Consider planting this tree-like shrub in front of a flat surface (wall or fence) to accentuate the contorted branches, providing much-needed winter interest.

This shrub does best in full sun, and will reach 8-10' tall. Buy plants that have not been grafted onto rootstock to avoid suckering. It's not a very fast grower, so you will have to be patient.

Cut branches are spectacular in floral arrangements.

Variegated Redtwig Dogwood, Tatarian Dogwood

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' (also C. 'Argenteo-marginata')

Variegated Redtwig Dogwood, Tatarian Dogwood  Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' (also C. 'Argenteo-marginata')

Variegated Redtwig Dogwood, Tatarian Dogwood  Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' (also C. 'Argenteo-marginata')

This colorful workhorse requires very little attention, yet gives so much satisfaction. Subtle, gray green leaves emerge in the spring, with an irregular, creamy white margin, which are quite noticeable against all the greens of summer. In autumn the foliage changes to gold, apricot and rose-red. Red stems stand out in the fall when the leaves drop, and provide a real burst of color in the winter months.

'Elegantissima' grows to 6-8' tall, and prefers full sun to light shade, with the stems being brighter in a sunnier location. This shrub is best when planted as a group, but don't overdo it, as the reds stems are a very strong focal point and can detract from other plant material. Prune 1/3 of the old wood every year, as the younger stems develop the more vivid red color that is desired.

Common Winterberry, Black Alder, Michigan Holly

Ilex verticillata

Common Winterberry, Black Alder, Michigan Holly, Ilex verticillata

This beauty is called Winterberry for a reason! This is a deciduous species of Holly, native to North America, where it flourishes in swampy areas. Numerous cultivars are available, with the female cultivar 'Winter Red' Winterberry producing lustrous green foliage followed by an abundance of persistent, bright red fruit. Winterberry requires a male pollinator to produce berries, such as 'Jim Dandy', 'Raritan Chief' or 'Southern Gentlemen'. Best fruit sets in plants located in full sun, and the berries are loved by birds. For the best effect, plant in groupings or masses in your landscape.

Numerous cultivars are available commercially, offering varying sizes and shapes of the plant, and color of fruit.

Cut stems can be kept indoors for months, provided they are not kept in water.

Do you have any of these unique, multi-season shrubs in your landscape?

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Nancy Stebbins
About the Author

Nancy Stebbins is a proud Michigan State University alumna, a landscape designer, and horticulturist at MasterTag – a horticultural printing company.

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Beyond the Blooms – Shrubs with Multi-Season Interest

Traits to Look For

Textured Bark

Textured Tree Bark

Late Season Berries

Frost covered red berries

Interesting Form

Tree with twisty branches in fall