Friday, January 24

Coppicing - well sort of

Years ago we planted a corkscrew hazel in our garden. We thought it would provide winter interest. It did - when the leaves dropped and the twisted branches were festooned with catkins - but for the rest of the year it was covered with an untidy mass of rather uninteresting leaves. In our garden it didn't  give value and so it had to go.

I can't remember how it came about, whether through shoots from roots or self seeded dropped nuts, but when we dug the original bush up we ended up with two straight stemmed plants.

We decided that we would plant these on the edge of the plot. (Plants often find there way from the garden to the plot). They do look attractive at certain times and provide shade under which we can park the car during those hot and sunny summer months.
Having more or less reverted to a wild form the bushes are very vigorous so they have to be treated severely. This does have a welcome spin-off as the hazels have started to provide us with a crop - not a crop hazel nuts. (Although a few wild nuts are produced and eaten by some opportunistic creature they are not really eating quality for humans). The crop provided is in the form of hazel branches which as I mentioned in previous post we use to create support structures for peas and sweet peas.

Each year one of the two bushes is coppiced - maybe chopped (or even hacked) back is a better description,
Hazels produce very useful straight stems and hopefully weather better than bamboo canes. 
The bush, in the foreground below was cut back last year.
As you can see from the photos below it has already made lots of new growth. It's the one on the right.
The one on the left will be subjected to the chop this year - maybe after it has finished flowering as it would be a pity to miss out on the catkin display. The catkins have been forming for a while now and as well as putting on an attractive display may help pollinate the cobnuts growing elsewhere on the plot.

We have a pair of bushes that should produce edible cob nuts or as I have recently found out filberts.
These bushes are planted in the same bed as the honeyberries - there still needs to be a little tidying of this bed around the nut bushes. Both bushes have already produced immature catkins - the male pollen bearing flowers.
One of these bushes is a Kent Cob which came from Victoriana Nursery gardens in 2011. Apparently this is actually a filbert and should produce delicious nuts. It's friend is an unknown variety grown by our plot neighbour from a supermarket nut. This may not is unlikely to produce edible nuts but may help with pollination as I understand that our Kent Cob does better when cross- pollinated.

Another advantage is that these plants are considered by the RHS to be excellent nectar plants which being early to flower will be good for the friendly insects.

I'll be keeping a watchful eye for the appearance of the female flowers when I may give nature a little bit of help.
It would be good to taste home produced nuts - that is if the local wildlife don't get to them first!

Message for visitors to Martyn's blog. Sorry for the lack of posts this week - we are decorating and Martyn can't prepare his posts in advance. Normal service will be resumed soon.




31 comments:

  1. Very interesting post Sue. I ordered my edible hedge this morning & it contains hazel. With luck I will be able to coppice my own beanpoles in several years time.

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    1. I'm looking forward to following how you get on with the edible hedge, Jo

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  2. Based on what I have seen of professional coppicing, I think you could afford to prune those bushes even more severely. They seem to be normally cut almost to ground level! I'm very envious too - I'd love to be able to use home-produced hazel poles rather than imported bamboo.

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    1. We could Mark but keeping it the size it is helps provide a boundary and the 'poles' we harvest are as good as we need.

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  3. Lucky you being able to drive right up to your plot. I have quite a walk to mine, it hurts when there's something heavy to carry! I've got a coppice area right next to my plot, and I'm waiting for the sticks to be sold as they're lovely. Much more attractive than bamboo. Unfortunately on the actual plots nothing above 7' is allowed, so no chance to grow my own. Good luck with the decorating, I hope it's finished soon.

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    1. Not quite finished ,CJ and then we start on my sister's. Must be hard work for you getting harvests home.

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  4. Interesting post about a versatile bush. I'm always too timid when pruning shrubs; maybe I should be more ruthless. Ruthless is my aim this year. I allow anything green to survive while I figure out what it is, by which time it's hard work to remove and nothing of interest. Maybe I should transfer these question marks to a nursery bed.

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    1. Some things respond to ruthlessness better than others, L

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  5. These poles will be very useful and should last several years. I find I can use mine for at least 3 years as pole for beans. Good luck with your filbert.

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    1. That's good news Alain we'll end up being able to make hazel fences at that rate.

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  6. This has been a useful post Sue - I've a few shrubs (nothing edible) that should be coppiced and I've always been wary of doing so. Your pictures have given me a better idea of what to do and more importantly - not to be afraid of doing so! Thanks

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    1. As Mark mentioned you can be even more severe than we have been, Angie.

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  7. I have never seen the hazel nut plants before. Here, we only find the nuts for chocolate and cookies. The nuts are imported from so many countries. A wonderful plant

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    1. I hope we get one or two nuts this year, Endah

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  8. Finished decorating and everything is put back - that took as long as the decorating - well nearly.

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  9. I have a corkscrew hazel, it started with curly branches which now just grow straight. I love your idea of pruning it for pea sticks. Oh....good luck with the nuts!xxx

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    1. Hi, Snowbird - read Roger's comments below. To be honest we just didn't like it so left it to just get on with things and the bits we planted on the plot were just pieces.

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    2. Ahhh.....the penny drops!!! If it ever stops raining I'll be out there chop chop chopping!xxx

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  10. Wonderful how much growth hazel puts on each year once it is established.

    I think I read somewhere that you'll only get nuts if you leave a bush alone for two or three years? Don't quote me on that though ...

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    1. The ones in the photo aren't the ones we want some nuts from Jayne. We have two 'proper' nutters in a fruit bed with the honeyberries and they are unpruned. They are fast growers aren't they?

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  11. Oh dear Sue, you have fallen into the trap and lost your contortion! Corkscrew hazels ALWAYS sucker from the roots with straight rods. You should ruthlessly cut them out when they appear. Corkscrew hazels also get very ugly over the years as they become very crowded and lose their elegance. Carefully thinning out - it is the work of an artist - can enhance beautiful flowing shapes.
    PS I nick my hazel rods from the farm field for staking!

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    1. It wasn't a trap problem Roger - we just didn't like the twisted hazel in the garden and so dug it up (we only had one twisted specimen) and it was still twisty at that point. It was when we dig out the main plant that we found the baby straight ones and decided to pop them on the plot to see what happened. That was years ago.

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  12. I would love to be able to produce my own staking material, I am so fed up with yellow bamboo! I have tried to get hold of green stained bamboo but no one seems to sell the longer ones ( at least 5’), and I can’t seem to find dark coloured wooden canes for staking either. I am so jealous of your hazel :-)

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    1. I wonder whether any of the local parks gardeners would have any for you, Helene. Could you try something like Freecycle - maybe a long shot but who knows - or pop an appeal on your blog.

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  13. Hi Sue, I looked up your site from whenyou commented on Damo's blog (Two Chance Veg Blog) and may I say what a cracking site you have
    I just need to work out how I follow you without a google account as I am on Wordpress
    Regards
    Darren
    qualityveggrowing.com

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    1. Hi Blicky and welcome - thanks for your lovely comment. You can follow using several ways - if you look on my sidebar, you can use, Facebook, Twitter, Bloglovin or email,

      I'll be popping to look at your blog when I get a chance,

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    2. Sorry should say Hi Darren :)

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  14. I planted a hazelnut tree on the bee plot at the back end of last year. It was given to me by a plot neighbour and it had self seeded in their garden so it will be interesting to see how well it grows and what it produces!!

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    1. It will Tanya - we'll see who gets nuts first, Tanya.

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  15. I have the same issues with corkscrew hazels - beautiful in winter, messy with the leaves on - so I think it is wonderful that you have rescued such a useful resource from yours. I planted a small hazel seedling here last year in the hope that in future I will be able to harvest bean poles. If I had room, I would definitely plant for nuts too, not to mention those wonderful "mohican" flowers!

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    1. The female flowers are bizarre aren't they, Janet. I hadn't really noticed them until I was trying for a photo of the more obvious catkins!

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