Hazelbert- Zone 3
Characteristics of the tree
The nuts of the hazelbert grow in small clusters, encased in a pale green or yellow-ish husk. They are ready to harvest around early September, though this will vary somewhat according to the region and the year. Squirrels love the hazelnuts, and harvesting is something of a race as to who will get to them first. If you have a great deal of squirrels, you might even want to think about protecting your bushes with wire mesh, or installing a barn-cat nearby! The hazelbert’s husk sticks slightly to the nut, but is easy to remove, and the shell is generally quite thin and can be easily cracked with a regular nut-cracker. As our trees are seedlings, the size of the hazelnuts will vary somewhat, but are generally somewhere between half the size of a commercial hazelnut, ranging to some almost matching a commercial filbert in size. Their taste can also vary somewhat between individual bushes – some more oily than others, some slightly sweeter than others – all, however, are mild, nutty and very tasty! Home-grown Nutella, anyone?
This hybrid hazelnut bush grows to around 12 feet in height, and produces heavy yields of nuts, around 9-12 kg of nuts per tree when mature. This type of hazelnut bush is self-sterile, and cannot produce nuts without cross-pollination. This means that you must plant at least two hazelberts, or you will not have any nuts. Note that a hazelbert will NOT be pollinated by a beaked hazel; two hazelberts are required. (If you already have an American hazelnut (Corylus americana) or pure filbert (Corylus avellana) at home, these can also work for pollination.) In optimal conditions, it will start to produce nuts after about 3 years.
Developed in New York State by Fred Ashworth in the 1920’s, the hazelbert is a cross between Graham and Wrinkler (both Corylus americana originating from USA) and Skinner (a cross from Corylus americana from Manitoba and Corylus avellana Italian Red Filbert) varieties. This cross gives the result of a very hardy hazelnut bush (zone 3) but with a bigger size nut (triple that of the beaked hazelnut). It is still not quite as big as the commercial filbert we find in grocery stores, but it looks the same and tastes very similar.
We have two different sources for our hazelbert seeds. One source is a pair of hazelberts that have been producing nuts for 30 years in zone 3b. No disease has been detected and they always yield heavy crops without any special care. Although these hazelberts are untested in zone 2, and we are unable to guarantee their hardiness there, we believe it would be worth trying. These are the ‘Zone 3 hazelberts’. For these bushes, the color of their leaves in fall is red like fire on the majority of bushes – very pretty.
Our second source for hazelbert seedlings is our own experimental orchard of hazelbert trees, particularly certain trees with noticeable good qualities; such as especially good productivity, or nuts larger than average. The hazelbert trees in our orchard from which we source our seeds all originate from the same tree in zone 3 as above, but some of them may have been pollinated by certain other higher quality, but less cold-hardy specimens growing nearby in our orchard. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the hardiness of their offspring further than zone 4, although they would still be surely worth a try in zone 3. These are the ‘Zone 4 hazelberts.’
The hazelbert grows as a large shrub with an upright bearing. It will reach around 4 metres in height at most, with a spread of about 2 metres. This illustration shows a 20-year-old hazelbert shrub that has attained its maximum height.
You should note that this illustration is meant only to give a general indication of what you can expect, and the growth of your tree might look somewhat different. The development of a tree depends on the soil type, irrigation, fertilisation and climatic conditions. What we show here is based on our observation of the growth of the hazelbert in zone 4, in rather poor soil. In zone 3, growth will probably be slower, while in a rich soil it could be faster.
The hazelbert bush can be planted at every 2 meters (6 feet) apart. If you only have space to plant one bush, you can still easily plant two hazel in the same hole. Together they will make one slightly larger bush, and you will get the cross-pollination you need for the production of hazelnuts. Hazelbert needs well-drained soil to grow well, and a lot of sun to produce nuts. The more it is exposed to sunlight, the more nuts it will give. Otherwise, it is an extremely easy tree to grow: it does not require annual pruning, staking or winter protection.
All our hazelbert shrubs are sold bare-root, without pots. They have been cultivated directly in our soil. Bare-root trees must be taken out of the ground and shipped during their period of dormancy, which is why we only ship trees in the spring. A big advantage with these kinds of trees is that they take up very little space, and can therefore be easily shipped by mail all over Canada!
This photograph shows a 1-3-foot hazelbert, just like one that you might receive. It might also be somewhat smaller than shown in the photo (closer to 1 foot) or slightly taller (closer to 3 feet in height) depending on availability at the time of order preparation.