A magical display is starting to occur in my garden. Tiny arrays of petal explosions are occurring. The Hamamelis are starting to awaken from their winter slumber. As each tiny crumpled petal unfurls in the soft winter sunlight, back lighting these strange looking flowers to their fullest glory. On a warm day the scent they release fills the air with a spicy blend of frankincense.
The colours are as rich as their scent would suggest, ranging from a sparky yellow to golden hues, rusty oranges to deeply divine reds.
To grow them successfully you must give them the correct growing conditions. Years ago when I worked with Roy Lancaster he told me ‘Fiona, if you want to grow a plant successfully find out something about their origins and where they grow in the wild ‘. Wise words!
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) is a native shrub of New England woodland. Transferring these conditions to our own gardens would require an acidic to neutral soil with a good amount of organic matter within it.(such as well rotted leaf mould ) They don’t appreciate dry summer soils nor winter wet, so mulch at the base to keep roots cool and moist and plant in a dappled shaded position.
The Hamamelis or Witch Hazel is said to have got its common name when early pilgrim settlers used the bendy branches to divine for water, leading to people believing this plant to have mystical powers! I’ve always had a bottle of witch hazel as a natural antiseptic to heel a grazed knee in the medicine box!
My favourite varieties are as follows
Hamamelis mollis ‘Wisley Supreme ‘ a zingy yellow
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘ Orange Peel ‘
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diana ‘ a deep red
Visit the RHS gardens at Wisley, Harlow Carr and Rosemoor for wonderful displays
Suggestions where to buy:
Both hold a national collection