You could say that the Hazel (Corylus avellana) is more like a shrub than a tree. A shrub is a woody plant that is actually a bit smaller than a tree.
Perhaps the main difference between the two is that shrubs have a number of stems growing from ground level as opposed to one trunk like what you get with trees. But don’t be misled with shrubs being smaller than trees because they vary in size and some like the common Hazel can be quite large so that it is called a tree.
The Hazel can grow into a tree with a single stem, but when wildlife nibbles away at it , it develops and shapes into a bush.
However, you like to think about trees and shrubs, both of them play an important role in garden design. Each one provides interest and character to a garden or park in terms of size, shape and colour.
Whatever garden-style takes your fancy, there are shrubs and trees to suit you and which grow in all kinds of different soil conditions and environments.
The Hazel – a fast-growing deciduous shrub
The Hazel is referred to as a native Irish tree – a large deciduous shrub or it can be referred to as a small tree. It is one of the most common trees in the UK and is fast-growing, producing many shoots.
You’ll find the Hazel growing in Europe, North Africa, western Asia and in the UK. You’re likely to find it among woodlands and hedgerows. There are some Hazel forests which are ancient and an example of these Hazel trees are found on the Isle of Raasay, near Skye, in Scotland and thought to be some of the oldest in the UK.
Growing a Hazel orchard
If you wanted to grow a Hazel tree or shrub, provide it with plenty of sunshine. They prefer a well-drained, fairly poor soil. The reason for this is that rich soil produces a lot of leafy growth but not many nuts.
- If you’re planting a nut crop, plant them about 4m apart.
- Dig the hole a little bit deeper than the pot it was growing in.
- Plants bought from the nursery in pots can be planted at any time of the year.
- They usually come as bundles of whips which are small single-stemmed plants.
- Spread out the roots and dig a hole large enough to accommodate them.
- Water your Hazel to settle it in. After a year or two you can feed it with a balanced fertiliser.
- The Hazel is prone to producing suckers so cut them off and prune out old stems to ground level in winter.
All kinds of insects are attracted to the Hazel, providing food for the likes of caterpillars and also providing pollen for bees. A number of ground-nesting birds such as the nightjar and nightingale also take shelter in it.
The Hazel is considered monoecious, which means that both sexes are found on the same tree. The flowers from other Hazel trees contribute to pollination. The male catkins appear and hang in yellow clusters from February. The female flowers are small and once pollinated by wind, the flower develops into oval fruits that mature into a nut.
As the nuts mature, they gradually turn brown and eventually fall from the tree. The nut is roughly 15–20 mm long and 12–20 mm broad. The nut has an outer fibrous husk, but the actual shell is smooth. When ripe, the nut falls out of the husk about 7 months after pollination.
Hazel Coppicing contributes to Longevity
In fact, hazel coppicing is actually an important management strategy in the conservation of woodland habitats and the timber is used in quite a number of different ways. The wood has never gone wasted and in bygone times the wood was twisted or knotted into divining sticks as well as furniture.
Hazel is often coppiced or cut back. This coppicing is actually an old tree and shrub management technique. It is where you cut back certain trees and shrubs which grow new shoots to harvest for either firewood, roof thatching, fencing or furniture.
Most broadleaf trees will sprout after coppicing and it is thought that these coppiced trees live much longer than those trees which haven’t been coppiced. If coppiced, hazel trees can live for hundreds of years.
When left as-is, the Hazel can reach a height of 8 -10m in height, and sometimes more. The fact that it can be pruned means that it can be shaped and grown in a smaller space if needs be.
Tree Management Specialists offer range of Tree Services
If you’re wondering what all the coppicing is about and how it can benefit your trees, always call in the tree specialists. At Surrey Tree Services, we’re a family run tree surgery business and we specialise in every aspect of tree management and cultivation. We were established in 2009 and have a lot of knowledge and experience in all thing’s trees in and around London.
Plant a Hazel and enjoy the health benefits
The nuts are rich in protein as well as unsaturated fat and they provide us with a host of health benefits, from having high folate content to preventing anemia and also being rich in vitamin E.
Trees and shrubs are wonderful in a garden and the Corylus avellana is a particularly useful shrub as its nuts are both therapeutic and culinary. The nuts feed a lot of wildlife and as humans we can eat them straight from the tree if you’re smart enough to carry a nutcracker with you.
This article was brought to you by Surrey Tree Services, a tree surgery company based in Leatherhead. We carry out many tree services including tree felling, pruning and stump grinding all over Surrey. Contact us today if you require a tree surgeon in Leatherhead and we will send an arborist to give you a free quote.
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