Hazels are long-lived plants, making 70-80 years if left to grow naturally, but much older trees are a common sight in our woodlands. The long, straight poles wore once highly valued for building and other purposes and these plants would have originally been coppiced (cut close to ground level) to encourage them to produce more branches. This had the effect of extending their lives to several hundreds of years.
Watch Out For
Squirrels are arch-enemy number one for the nut grower, although some birds and rodents are also partial. This is difficult to overcome and you may find that harvesting slightly unripe nuts is the only way to have some for yourself. Netting, sonic devices and bird scares may help.
Caterpillars of various moths will eat the leaves but usually, only cause cosmetic damage.
Nut weevils burrow into the developing nuts causing holes and maggoty fruit. Pick up fallen leaves and rake around the base of the tree to expose pests to frost and predators.
CORYLUS AVELLANA: The wild hazel is a lovely tree and very productive, not to mention relatively cheap. Also a great hedging plant much loved by wildlife.
- MAXIMA ‘PURPUREA’: The beautiful purple-leaved filbert. Reasonably compact at around 2.4m and also produces red husks and flowers.
- AVELLANA COSFORD COB: a reliable self-fertile green-leaved variety that is also a good pollinator for neighbouring trees.
- MAXIMA BUTLER: A reliable and heavy cropper. Ideal for growing with ‘Cosford Cob’ for effective pollination.
Unlike filberts and hazels, which ate more shrubby in look, almonds are really pretty and very definitely trees ones at that. Pretty compact when grafted to the plum rootstock St Julien A (they’re closely related to plums and peaches), they’ll usually reach around 3.5m in height and distribute after 5-10 years, so are modest enough for most gardens.
Almonds flower in March and April and are commonly covered in pink blossom which makes them well worth growing even minus the bonus of fruit. Nevertheless, young trees will crop only lightly within their second year after planting, with ‘proper’ crops following from the third year onwards.
It was mentioned above that as part of the big prunus family they can be related to plums and they do suffer from numerous the same pests and diseases, the most serious of which is a silver leaf. As with plums this can be avoided then restricting it to summer when the sap is flowing to keep the disease spores out of the open wounds and even by keeping pruning to an absolute minimum.
Good varieties to consider are the self-productive ‘Robijn’ – probably the most commonly accessible. However, you may also be offered the variety ’Ingrid” or simply the common almond Prunus dulcis. The latter when sold ungrafted makes a handsome tree, but will reach up to 10 m isn’t ideal for a small plot. ‘Ingrid” is another self-rich tree with beautiful pink flower. It’s great resistance to peach leaf curl, but does not typically make as heavy crops as ’Robijn”.
Although almond trees are very hardy, the blossom is prone to frost damage so should not be planted in a frost pocket or very cold or exposed site and do require a warm, dry summer to fruit well. “Robijn” flowers a little later than other varieties so is best if growing further north.
Thanks to some clever breeding and the use of dwarf rootstocks you can now grow an almond tree on your patio. “Garden Prince” grows to just 1.2m thanks to the peach seedling dwarfing rootstock and like its larger cousins is self-fertile and has lovely pink spring blossom. It will start cropping after approximately three years.
Having said overleaf that despite being very beautiful trees walnuts are too large for most UK gardens, there is a slightly more compact option you might like to try. The variety “Lara” is a little more compact than its common cousin, “only” reaching a height and spread of around 12m x 9m. Another variety, ‘Broadview’, is also a little more compact than the common walnut. Both are grafted on to Juglans regia rootstock which gives them their comparatively compact habit.