At the beginning of 2009 I went a bit nuts and ordered myself two Webb’s Prize Cobnuts from Victoriana Nursery Gardens (a cultivated variety of the hazelnut, Corylus avellana). They have lived in large containers ever since, and have suffered somewhat in the various moves and periods of neglect they have been subjected to in the gardening interregnum.
They are currently sitting in my front garden, since last weekend we moved all of the refugee plants there from the garden strip that is further away (and harder to water).
The problem is I’m not sure where they fit in the new garden. I have a feeling that space is going to be at a premium, and they don’t earn their keep. They have never been productive (hardly their fault, I would imagine), and now that I live in a more rural area there’s more risk of any nuts being snaffled by squirrels. It’s not as if they add much in the way of wildlife value, since the garden is opposite a tall, wild hedge.
Beyond their nuts, the only other use for this plant would be to coppice it for hazel poles. That’s a possibility, especially considering Ryan wants to experiment with making his own charcoal, and we’re planning on having a fire pit when the garden is finished. The ideal time to coppice a hazel (which, in essence, means cutting it right back) is the middle of winter. Whether or not a coppiced tree would be happy in a large container… I suspect nobody knows. The Forestry Commission have published a good guide to hazel coppicing which suggests cutting every 6-10 years. Which makes mine an ideal age for a first cut, I think – but also means Ryan would have to wait another 6 years for any more wood 😉
Perhaps the best idea would be to try it with one of my trees first, leaving the other for another year if the first survives the treatment. In the meantime they could probably do with a top dressing of fresh compost and a bit of a feed. They’ve been fending for themselves for quite some time.
As you can see, I’m currently in the process of building myself a new garden. The story of my first garden is told in The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A to Z. That book is currently sold out and hard to get hold of, but if you’re in the UK you can order a signed copy from me for £12 inc. p&p. Drop me a line if you’d like one.
This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.