At the intersection of the West Walk and the Fireplace Walk I had planted three Buxus microhylla that were extras left from a landscape installation. I thought an evergreen note in a mostly perennial area would be nice. I occasionally shaped them up into a soft arrowhead, but last spring I realized that I had ignored them a bit too long and they had grown into quite a large blob. I sat on the porch steps and stared at the blob for a long while. In a fit of inspiration, I grabbed my pruners and made my first ever topiary – a cat (only really imaginative people can see the cat).
I was entertained by this little project and proud of my work, but came to realize that I’m a bit too busy to keep a crisp shape on a topiary that is line-of-sight just outside the door. The cat got shaggier and shaggier and finally had to go. Dennis cut the shrubs down with his chainsaw and pulled out the stumps with his big iron bar. I tidied up the corner with some mulch.
So when I came home from the nursery last week with an impulse buy – Corylus avellana ‘Red Dragon’ – I had the perfect spot waiting for it. This plant is new to me and is described as similarly contorted compared to the old Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, but with a less dense canopy so the twisting branches are visible when the plant is in leaf. It is also less susceptible to Eastern Filbert Blight and the leaves are red! I underplanted the Corylus with Alchemilla erythropoda, thinking that the chartreuse flower of the Miniature Lady’s Mantle will be splashy with the leaves of the Red Dragon Contorted Filbert.
As I have been planting this spring, I’ve been making records in my Muddy Boots Plant Tags system. My tip for you regarding new plants is this: I use my smart phone in the garden to create a new record just after planting something and enter the basic information such as the botanical name. If it’s a plant that I’m going to attach a tag to, I will assign a tag number and hang the tag on the plant. I assigned a tag to the Corylus, but did not tag the Alchemilla. At the end of the day, I spend 15 or 20 minutes at my computer filling out those records with the date, where I planted it in the garden, where I bought the plant, a data sheet, and maybe a note or photo.
I am hoping that Corylus ‘Red Dragon’ settles in comfortably in my garden as dragons seem to find their way here to Acorn Hill. I have a dragon planter sculpted by my good friend Nels, a demure dragon named Helen greets people as they come up the walk, and our pond is designed on the Chinese myth of the Dragon’s Gate.