My witch hazels normally bloom in succession starting as early as solstice (Dec 21st). This year with the extended cold, snow and ice I’ve gotten to enjoy all four of my witch hazels blooming at the same time.
I love the winter-blooming plants, they ease the transition back to spring. Most shrubs, perennials and bulbs that bloom very early have distinctive small blooms which might go unnoticed at another time of year. With so little visual competition during this season they really stand out. Because of the low temperatures my witch hazels bloom for months!
My personal favorite is Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’. Her coppery-orange spider shaped flowers are lightly fragrant and appear on bare branches.
‘Jelena’ will mature to a 12’x12’ vase shaped shrub. I planted her on a small berm so that I could walk underneath her spreading branches. An idea I “borrowed” from the witch hazel walk at VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver BC. www.VanDusengarden.org
Witch hazels open horizontally spreading habit are perfect for under-planting. ‘Jelena’ is under-planted with ‘Brazen Hussy’ Ranunculus fricaria and Primula veris ‘Sunset Shades’. Both bloom early but unfortunately just after ‘Jelena’ finishes.
‘Arnold Promise’ Hamamelis offers clear yellow flowers which are the last to bloom in my garden. He is under-planted with black Mondo grass and a tiny pink flowering Oxalis.
‘Diane’ Hamamelis has dark reddish flowers.She reads best visually with a light colored background or planted up close. I also have an unknown cultivar that I bought as ‘Winter Beauty’ but it was mislabeled.My unknown shrub has very small but intensely fragrant coppery orange flowers and is the earliest to bloom.
I love to visit public gardens especially in the winter. Both VanDusen Botanical Garden just over the border in Vancouver and University of Washington Arboretum Winter Garden are great for beautiful mature plantings of various Hamamelis cultivars. https://botanicgardens.uw.edu/washington-park-arboretum
All witch hazels are known for eye catching fall color. In my garden the fall color echoes the bloom color, ranging from clear yellow to deep fiery red and orange. Local nurseries sell the most commonly offered ‘Jelena’ ‘Diane’ and ‘Arnold Promise’.
Most witch hazels are grafted. I try to pick one without a lot of suckers, which need to be regularly removed, otherwise no pruning is usually necessary. I do remove any dead or broken branches and occasionally prune a branch off the pathway.
When planting remember to give this wide spreading shrub the room it needs to gracefully develop.
Witch hazels prefer well drained soil in partial to full sun. Three of mine are in open woodland near mature Douglas Fir trees which have been limbed up. One is planted in full sun. They are completely hardy and get blasted by the frigid northeaster winds we get in the county.
For more info on witch hazel and other great options for Pacific Northwest gardens visit www.greatplantpicks.org
Out in the garden, Kathy Veterane