Hamamelis (Witch Hazel)
Native to North America and Asia, this is an unusual winter (December to March) flowering plant. Hamamelis virginiana L. is the only one that flowers in autumn. Hamamelis virginiana was the first to be discovered in the Americas and this is the plant that is distilled to an extract and is quite widely used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, great for skin cleansing etc.
Often described in books as either a small tree or large spreading/multi-stemmed shrub that grows up to 3-4m (10-15ft) tall. Individual plants can flower for between 4-6 weeks depending on how cold it is. The scented flowers burst out like spidery fireworks on bare stems in the depths of winter. The flowers are usually yellow (H. mollis, H. Pallida), orange (H. Jelena) or red (H. Diane). The fragrance is similar to an oriental spice mix, great for livening up a dull cold day. The blooms are good for the early pollinating insects too, that brave it out on the more sunny days of winter.
Not only do you get the colour in late winter and early spring from the flowers, but the rich autumn colours from the foliage is a sight to behold.
They can be planted in a mixed border and grow well with low growing bulbs e.g. Winter Aconite, Wood anemone, Cyclamen coum and Snowdrops. These bulbs will also naturalise well too.
This tough plant copes well with any reasonable soil but prefers neutral to acidic conditions. The Witch Hazel is tolerant of both clay and shade, so can be used to liven up a dull corner of the garden.
This plant must be planted in the ground as they hate to be pot bound where the roots become restricted. Though it is not a thug (i.e. it doesn't take over the garden) and doesn’t have suckering roots.
With the Witch Hazel pruning is not necessary, unless you are removing damaged, dead, diseased or crossing branches.
This is one of our personal favourites. In a big enough garden, it would be our first choice of small tree.
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Happy Gardening and we look forward to a slightly better mix of weather than 2018!