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Pallida has an open shape with a rounded crown – shown here underplanted with hellebores

 

Seattle is having an unprecedented mild spell which tempted me out  to visit the winter garden at the University of Washington arboretum this weekend. The birds were singing, the frogs were….doing what frogs do, the hummingbirds were dipping and diving and people were swooning. Really? Yes really. Pure olfactory overload – the witch hazels are in full bloom, the sweetbox is flowering, some of the Oregon grapes still have fragrant blooms and the daphne are just getting started. So for those of you buried under snow or battling icy winds, here is a little witch hazel Scratch and Sniff from Seattle to cheer you up.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis species)

 

Winter Beauty blooms prolifically in full sun

Winter Beauty blooms prolifically in full sun

Witch hazels (Hamamelis sp.) are small trees or large deciduous shrubs originating from North America (H. ovalis, H. virginialis, H. vernalis), Japan (H. japonica) and China (H. mollis). Many of today’s favorites are a hybrid between H. japonica and H. mollis known as Hamamelis x intermedia from which cultivars such as Jelena (coppery orange) and Diane (red) have been propagated.

Gives these beauties room to spread – some can reach 15′ tall and wide! I too am guilty of ‘tucking’ them into a corner….

Pruning can be tricky and I don’t recommend it except to remove suckers. Those are the branches which stick straight up (the natural habit is of sideways or fan shaped growth). You may also see suckers from the base of the main trunk which again grow straight up. The general consensus is to remove these when the shrub is completely dormant (in winter) to reduce the possibility of stimulating new growth at that point. If you must prune for size then do so after flowering but before summer so that new buds have a chance to set for the following year.

Selecting for fragrance

Gold Crest is worth seeking out for its intense spicy fragrance

Gold Crest is worth seeking out for its intense spicy fragrance

While all witch hazels are fragrant some are more so than others. These are noted for their exceptional scent;

Gold Crest, Arnold Promise, Boskoop

Selecting for flower color

Ruby Glow is an unusual shade of brick red

Ruby Glow is an unusual shade of brick red

Yellow;  Gold Crest, Arnold Promise, Sandra, Sweet Sunshine, Pallida

Red; Diane, Agnes, Birgit, Foxy Lady

Orange; Jelena, Aphrodite, Gingerbread

Selecting for bloom time

This winter vignette captures two witch hazels and hellebore all in bloom together

This winter vignette captures two witch hazels and hellebore all in bloom together

The bloom time may vary from year to year, from one area to another and is weather dependent but this general guide will help you select a couple of cultivars that will provide you with an extended dose of swoon-worthy fragrance!

January-March; Chinese witch hazel (H. mollis)

February-March; Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica)

Fall; H. virginiana This native species is hardy in USDA Zones 3-8, spectacular in autumn as flowers at the same time as its leaves turn golden yellow

Late winter/early spring ; H. vernalis

Late spring – April; Orange Encore ( H x intermedia ‘Orange Encore’)

Selecting for fall color

Diane has a wide range of colors in fall

Diane has a wide range of colors in fall

Arnold Promise  – yellow

Diane – orange, gold and purple!

Jelena – orange and red

H. virginiana – yellow

Selecting for size/shape

Winter Beauty has a broad, spreading shape

Winter Beauty has a broad, spreading shape

Most witch hazels are typically as tall as they are wide, ranging from 10-15′ but these are notable exceptions

Narrower profile – Arnold Promise, Sweet Sunshine

Arnold Promise is narrower than many

Arnold Promise is narrower than many

Weeping – Lombart’s weeping witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis ‘Lombart’s Weeping’).

Basic cultural requirements

Full sun or partial shade but flowering is best in full sun

Average, moisture retentive, acidic soil

Typically hardy in zones 5-8

Want to know more?

Great reading!

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