Goodbye corkscrew hazel; Hello fothergilla

My corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) in happier times


I’m just awaiting the paperwork. Eastern Filbert Blight has again reared its ugly – uckily ugly – head, as predicted and feared when I wrote about it back in March.

Now I’m waiting for an envelope from Rutgers University containing the import permit that will let me ship samples to the university for their genetic database. December is harvest time for the nasty-looking fungus cankers.

Then it’s bye-bye corkscrew hazel – we barely knew ye. At least it’s going for a good cause.

That leaves a prominent gap at the front of the garden. And I know just how to fill it.

Hello, Fothergilla gardenii ‘Mount Airy’. This dwarf form of the native North American shrub has held a place in my lustful heart for some time. I had been worried it might not get enough moisture in my garden – because, otherwise, this shrub is fairly problem-free with two great seasons of interest (as you’ll see below). But I have hope: our neighbour G has had a dwarf fothergilla for some years now. In fact, these pictures are of G’s shrub – soon to have a friend down the street. Fingers crossed.

In May, Fothergilla sports these unusual, bottle-brush flowers, with a fragrance I’ve heard described as vanilla or licorice.
In fall (this was taken today, in fact), the foliage on this compact shrub turns gold, orange and red. Yes, yes, I want.


  1. I have seen the bottlebrush plant praised elsewhere too. It does seem specially attractive. I have a trouble that where the soil is moist, there is no room; where there is room, the soil is almost impossibly dry. (When I say 'impossibly' – I mean for any plant!)

    So sad about the corkscrew. Not only is it a friend to say good-bye to, it's an interesting plant to have had.

  2. I feel your pain. I have a 10-year-old, heavily infested corkscrew hazel that's about 6 X 6 feet, anchoring a corner of our front garden. Although its loss will sadden me and leave a large space to fill, it does mean I can add something new and fabulous! I'm thinking of a corylopsis, although it might grow too large for the space.

  3. I love the contorted filberts! I'm sorry yours got the cankers. They have a shape that is just very cool in the garden. The fothergilla though will be great for your garden. The fall color is pretty cool!

  4. Only gardeners like you and me can appreciate the just how painful it is to lose a plant. I’ve love and lost countless trees in my time and it never seems to get easier because they are almost like household pets which we nurture.

    So, I feel for you but I have no doubt that you will enjoy your new addition — the Fothergilla which, by the way, is rather hardy.

  5. Painful to lose a special plant… but it's alright, birth and death overlaps and connects….
    When leaves turn gold and brown, we over here with hot and humid climate will get worried…..

  6. OH No! I’ve just convinced myself I need a Corkscrew Hazel. I’ve read and looked and decided…and now I read your post ;-( Do I totally bypass this and copy you and go for the fothergilla??? Mmmmmmm!…this is an old post. How’s the fothergilla???

    1. Hi, Linda. The fothergilla of my inspiring neighbour G is still doing beautifully. My own foray into fothergilla country was less successful – probably due to drought.

      I don’t know if you’ve read other posts on our blog, but my garden is in the dry shade of two giant Norway maples, on very sandy soil (G has the same soil, but not the same root competition). Dryness is a problem here, even without the extreme summer conditions of the past few years.

      If I try it again, and I might, I’d plant it closer to the house and water source, so I could better tend to its thirst. It is a lovely shrub, with more to offer than the corkscrew hazel, much as I love the latter.

      Good luck!

      1. Thanks for the info’ Helen. I’m still in limbo. Still REALLY want a Corkscrew. I saw a Red Dragon yesterday, read up on it and another of your posts came up saying that it is EFB resistant. I may give it a try. I can’t seem to let go!!! ;-/
        Thanks again. I am enjoying your blog. Lots of good stuff!!

        1. Linda, do what your heart tells you. I do love the corkscrew hazel, and if I could I’d have it back again. The red foliage ones like ‘Red Dragon’ are quite handsome, too.

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