March 7, 2010

I'm Not Bewitched

Am I the only one not bewitched by blooming witch hazels?  Last month bloggers in warmer states showed us their hamamelis shrubs with their quirky red blossoms popping out in an end-of-winter show that looked amazing.  Especially hamamelis intermedia 'Diane', and especially when shot against a blue late winter sky.  Everyone raved.

Well, I have a 'Diane', and temps have been up to 50 degrees here in New England a couple days in a row, although nights are still below freezing. And my 'Diane' is now blooming.  The little copper colored blossoms are out, but they are so.... um, .... small.  Insignificant.
I know any plant with flowers in March is a plus, but I expected something more.  I thought it would be covered, and catch my eye from inside the house.  Instead, I have to go right up to it and check out the little strappy blossoms, by looking really, really closely.
The fact that this shrub sits in front of a brown field doesn't help.  There's no background to set off the few tiny red and orange stars.
It's a young shrub, 3 years in my garden, so maybe it takes a while to come into its own?  I saw a couple mature ones in Sturbridge Mass. this weekend.  They were very large, artistically shaped trees and they were blooming.  But again, the blooms were tiny, coppery and lovely up close, but not noticeable from just a few feet away.

I also have a hamamelis vernalis, Spring witch hazel, supposed to be quite fragrant in late winter when in bloom.  It has buds, but they're not open at all.  My Spring hazel was just transplanted last Fall, so I'm not going to pass judgment yet, but it's pretty underwhelming (see, I did just pass judgment).

On March 14 I am going to Broken Arrow Nursery to attend a program called Magical Witches of Winter.  How tantalizing is that?   They'll show us pictures, describe the plants, then take us on a walk of their grounds to see their extensive collection of witch hazels.  I'll either come home bewitched by hazels, but perhaps even more underwhelmed by my own shy, demurely blooming little 'Diane', or I'll learn what it is I am supposed to appreciate about these delicately blooming woodland shrubs. 


  1. My witch hazel barely has buds on it. It is very young, also. I don't think it bloomed last year, but I am hopeful!

  2. I'm still waiting on two witchhazels we have to grow old enough to bloom. I thought we might have a couple blooms this year but that never happened. You should try a folthergilla if you haven't already. They are related to witchhazels and have some pretty neat flowers!

  3. Definitely a bloom to enjoy up close. A good excuse to get out into the garden! :-)

  4. I think it must be a plant that should be cut and brought into the house to enjoy up close in a vase!

  5. Deborah and Dave, it's good to know you have young non-bloomers too. Maybe we just need to be patient with hazels and wait for them to mature. I do have fothergillas, and they are beautiful, and bloom extravagantly, but later in spring.

    Garden Ms. S and Sheila: I agree, this flower is one to see up close, either as I go by it, or maybe I will try a branch or two inside.

  6. This will be my second spring with mine, Arnolds Promise, I'll be back (actually its Arnold Promise, but the Terminator keeps coming to mind, lol). As much as I think the red is pretty, I thought the yellow would show up better from far away. I planted into a (so far, nonexistent evergreen hedge), I am hoping that will show off the flowers, (one day).
    Love to hear about the course, what a great name!

  7. Deborah, I wish I had used your logic when selecting a witch hazel to plant. I agree that the yellow would show up better in the landscape!

  8. I love it: Magical Witches of Winter. :)

    I think the best witch hazel is a really fragrant witch hazel. The most fragrant ones I have ever come across are H. vernalis 'Christmas Cheer', H. mollis 'Pallida' and a seedling of 'Jelena' that I grew and have in my garden. ('Jelena' herself is not very fragrant, so I lucked out.)

    The most gorgeous witch hazel visually that I have come across is one that used to be in the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. It was H. intermedia 'Fire Charm'. It was about 15' tall, 10' wide, a beautiful shape, covered in red flowers in late winter and had the most gorgeous scarlet autumn foliage. I cannot remember if the flowers were fragrant, and I do not know if the staff stripped any leaves. Dirr's Manual says that it drops its leaves, so maybe the staff didn't do anything and it was wonderful on its own.

    Jelena is striking too, and if you like orange, the flowers really read orange.

  9. Sweet bay: all the plants you mention must be mature, established witch hazels, so I am learning I must be patient with mine. How great is it that you got a sweet smelling seedling from your hazel Jelena! You can make it a named cultivar... Hamamelis x intermedia 'Sweetbay' I'd buy one.


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