If you're after reliable, sweet-tasting autumn cobnuts from a tree that won't get too big, Webb's Prize Cob could well be the one to choose. The autumn nuts, resplendent in those stately green ruffs, are plentiful and held in large clusters. With the nut harvest over, it's time for the leaves come into their own, turning gorgeous buttery golden shades and creating their own little patch of sunshine in the garden. Then, in late winter, the lovely dangly catkins start to burst with pollen, bringing both seasonal interest and food for hungry bees and other pollinators, at a time when it's most scarce. Don't forget, either, that hazel sticks are invaluable in the garden – use them as bean poles, to make polytunnels, fruit cages, screens, trellis, arbours or edging. If, however, you fancy a filbert rather than a cob (more on this below), or a hazel that's more about leaf colour than nut harvest, then take a look at our selection nut trees for sale.
Webb's Prize Cob is fully hardy, and is a good choice if you live where winters are harsh. They're not fussy about soil, and will even do well when the pH is on the alkaline side. They'll grow in a little shade, but fruit better in a sunny, open spot. Although Webb's Prize Cob will self pollinate (especially if you prune when the catkins are loaded with pollen, in late winter), ideally, you should plant two or more different hazelnut cultivars near each other to improve pollination. So create a little orchard with Corylus maxima or Corylus avellana, maybe, and you're sorted. There's a choice to be made come harvest time. Either gather your nuts when they're still a little green and use them roughly chopped in salads (combined with a sharp, young cheese like Lancashire they're heavenly). Or leave them until the ruffs turn golden and eat as mature cobnuts, for cracking open by the fire or roasting and incorporating into biscuits and cakes. Store them somewhere cool and dry, in a net bag so the air can circulate, turning regularly and removing the husks when dry and they'll keep well. Prune the tree between January and March by removing some of the older, thicker branches at the base. Don't forget that hazel sticks are invaluable in the garden – use as bean poles, to make polytunnels, screens or edging.
If you're confused about the difference, the answer is, in fact, simple. Cobnuts are the fruit of Corylus avellana and filberts (a little less common) are from Corylus maxima. Both are forms of hazelnuts. The cobnut has a short husk, whereas the covering of the filbert covers the whole nut in a long, frilly coat. Both have male and female flowers on the same tree – the male flower being the catkin and the female one hardly noticeable. In terms of which to grow, there's very little difference for the average gardener.