HARRY LAUDER THE NAME
HARRY LAUDER THE PLANT
HARRY LAUDER THE MAN
HARRY LAUDER'S WALKING STICK
by Gene Sumi
If you have this curious-looking, wonderfully whimsical shrub growing in your yard, you know how unique a landscape feature it is. It is a deciduous shrub that grows 8 to 10 feet tall and about 8 feet wide, and its dominant feature is its contorted, twisting branches. Regardless of the season, these branches catch your attention, and not in a grotesque way. The plant has character and you could even say it has an uncommon grace about its place in the garden.
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (botanical name Corylus avallena ‘Contorta’) is a filbert or hazelnut tree that started out as an unusually weird twisted branch that someone noticed growing out of filbert hedge in England. Filberts make excellent hedges, as well as provide delicious nuts for eating. Our plant, however, does not produce any nuts from its trailing flowers, called catkins.
The common name of this plant is an interesting story, since almost no one seems to recall the person for whose walking stick this plant is named. Sir Harry Lauder was an internationally famous entertainer during the early part of the 20th Century. You could call him a “song and dance man”, but that wouldn’t come close to describing what this man accomplished in this life. His fame came from singing Scottish ballads on stages throughout Great Britain, which endeared him to his public here and abroad. Sir Winston Churchill referred to him as “Scotland’s greatest ever ambassador.”
The walking stick name for our unusual shrub was in reference to one of Harry Lauder’s most recognized companions on the stage. Always appearing in public in traditional Scottish dress, he also carried a very distinctive walking stick. It was bent, twisted and contorted from the handle down to the tip. So when it came time to name this twisted selection of filbert, the walking stick of this great entertainer came to mind.
from Missouri Botanical Garden
Corylus avellana, commonly called European filbert, European hazel or cobnut, is a deciduous, thicket-forming, multi-trunked, suckering shrub that typically grows to 12-20’ tall. It is native to Europe, western Asia and northern Africa where it is typically found growing in rich thickets, woodland borders, wooded slopes, hedgerows, clearings and along streams.
Monoecious flowers (separate male and female flowers on the same plant) bloom on bare branches in late winter to early spring (March-April) before the leaves emerge. Somewhat showy, pale yellow-gray male flowers appear in sessile drooping catkins (each to 2-3” long). Inconspicuous female flowers with red stigmas bloom just above the male catkins. Double serrate, elliptic to ovate to orbicular, medium green leaves (to 4” long) are rounded to cordate at the base and generally hairy. Leaves turn variable but often unexceptional shades of yellow in fall. Smooth light bark is gray-brown. Fruit is a hard edible brown nut (to 3/4” long) enclosed in a leafy, hairy, light green husk. Nuts are known as cobnuts. Nuts appear in terminal clusters of 1-4 and are half covered in ragged husks. The husk (involucral tube) surrounding the nut extends beyond the nut by at least one inch to form a beak. Nuts ripen in late August and September.
In Europe, cultivars of this shrub are commercially grown for nut production. Numerous cultivars exist. In the U.S., Oregon is the center for nut production.
The nuts from species plants may be roasted and eaten, but are less tasty than those found on developed cultivars and are usually left for the squirrels.
Genus name comes from the Greek word korylos, or from korys meaning a helmet, in regard to the husk on the nut.
Sir Henry Lauder (4 August 1870 – 26 February 1950) was a Scottish singer and comedian popular in both music hall and vaudevillian theatre traditions; he achieved international success.
He was described by Sir Winston Churchill as "Scotland's greatest ever ambassador",who also wrote that Lauder, "... by his inspiring songs and valiant life, rendered measureless service to the Scottish race and to the British Empire."He became a familiar worldwide figure promoting images like the kilt and the cromach (walking stick) to huge acclaim, especially in America. Among his most popular songs were "Roamin' in the Gloamin", "A Wee Deoch-an-Doris", "The End of the Road" and, a particularly big hit for him, "I Love a Lassie".
Lauder's understanding of life, its pathos and joys, earned him his popularity.Beniamino Gigli commended his singing voice and clarity.
Lauder usually performed in full Highland regalia—kilt, sporran, tam o' shanter, and twisted walking stick—and sung Scottish-themed songs, including Roamin' in the Gloamin'.
By 1911 Lauder had become the highest-paid performer in the world, and was the first British artist to sell a million records; by 1928 he had sold double that. He raised vast amounts of money for the war effort during the First World War, for which he was knighted in 1919.
He went into semi-retirement in the mid-1930s, but briefly emerged to entertain troops in the Second World War. By the late 1940s he was suffering from long periods of ill-health and died in Scotland in 1950