Posts Tagged Witch Hazel
Before the clouds closed in, our day started with the eastern sky ablaze with color, the air filled with bird song and frog calls. And because this day was preceded by a day packed with warm air and sunshine, I have a few flower shots to share.
Every late-winter/early-spring-blooming plant I grow is 3-4 weeks later than usual in blooming. Not that I blame them! That was one rough February for all of us. My trees, shrubs, and bulbs have bided their time, but they couldn’t contain themselves any longer when sunshine and warmer temperatures finally returned.
The little bulbs showed up first. The snowdrops got flattened by our snow, but the crocuses and little irises were not far along enough to be damaged. So delicate and lovely!
My three-year-old Aurora witch hazel exploded in orange-yellow strappy petals that emit a sweet, clean fragrance detectable on the breeze.
My Amethyst witch hazel starting blooming about a week before Aurora, but it is still quite pretty.
Every year I can remember, the Ice Follies daffodils are first to bloom. But not this year. This year, the big yellow ones — I think they are King Alfred’s — bloomed first. As of yesterday, the Ice Follies were not quite open still.
My small Cornelian cherry dogwoods (Cornus mas) are lighting up the landscape with their small, bright yellow flowers. Individually, the flowers aren’t much to look at, but when they cover an entire plant, you can’t help but notice this tree.
This year, the Lenten Roses actually waited well into Lent before beginning to show their bloom faces.
My past records tell me that my Royal Star magnolia often begins blooming in early February. This fuzzy shot is of the handful at the top of my 25-foot-tall tree that opened in yesterday’s sunshine.
The afternoon sunlight did a nice job of enhancing the color of this hazelnut’s golden catkins, the male flowers. I looked for the tiny female blooms, but didn’t see any.
This one surprised me. My beautiful Parrotia persica tree always blooms this time of year. Its flowers are small and inconspicuous, because they are wind-pollinated. Evidently, my neighbor’s honeybees still managed to find something in them worth visiting.
Not to be left out of the act, the forest giants are beginning their bloom cycles too. The elms have been blooming for a couple of weeks, as my allergies will testify. Now the treetops are punctuated with the crimson flowers of the Red Maples. Some of the trees have orange-tinged flowers like these, but others have deeply scarlet blooms.
My beleaguered ornamental flowering apricots are also still pushing out flowers. Their landscape impact was severely impaired this year by the prolonged cold. But when the wind blows from the south, I still get an occasional whiff of Peggy Clarke’s perfume.
All in all, I’d say March is treating my landscape with lamb-like kindness — so far, at least. Here’s hoping it remains a kinder month than that brutal February we all endured.
One of the advantages of living in the Piedmont region of NC — most years, at least — is that it is possible to have blooming plants in your landscape every month of the year. To do it, you have to sneak in some well-behaved non-native beauties, but I think it’s worth it for year-round blooms.
Granted, most gardeners aren’t too fond of that little weed above. But I’ve always liked dandelions. These non-native naturalized weeds were brought to North America by early colonists. It was considered an essential medicinal plant, and is still consumed in tonics, wines, and salads by many people. In fact, you can find horticulturally improved dandelion seeds in the greens section of many seed catalogs.
In my yard, the dandelions seem to prefer our gravel driveway. I know most folks would eradicate them, but I love their cheerful yellow faces on gloomy winter days. And if it’s warm enough for the honeybees to fly, you’ll find them swarming every yellow lion they see.
Most of the flowers blooming today are non-native trees and shrubs, all but one of which I added to our landscape. I apologize for the less-than-stellar photos. My camera objected to the limited light offered by today’s mostly cloudy skies.
As has been the case in recent years, the pink-flowering ornamental apricot (Prunus mume) variety has begun to bloom before Peggy Clarke. For better pictures of this variety, try here.
Right on schedule, the January Jasmine began blooming last week. Judging by the number of still-unopened flower buds, it should be brightening the landscape through January.
The January Jasmine usually blooms several months before forsythias start, but not this year. Our November was deeply cold, but our December was visited by several very warm bouts of weather. I think this may have prompted the forsythia thicket that grows along my road front to open a few flowers ahead of schedule.
Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clark’ isn’t quite open yet, but many of the buds on both my trees are showing hints of rose pink.
And finally, one named variety of a native tree species that I recently added to my landscape is just beginning to bloom. Hamamelis vernalis ‘Amethyst’ has partially opened a set of flower buds closest to the ground, where I suspect temperatures are just slightly warmer. I added this variety of witch hazel specifically for its winter blooms. The strappy purple flowers should be dangling in clusters from all the branches very soon.
One other native currently has two sets of flower buds that may manage to open before the next round of deeply cold weather. The coral honeysuckle vine growing on the trellis along my front walk, though mostly devoid of leaves, is sporting crimson flower buds.
Such floral enthusiasm is welcome in my mostly drab winter landscape. Every bloom reminds me of life’s persistent resilience, promising Spring’s imminent return.
After returning home from errands today, I noticed quite a few flowers blooming among my five acres of green chaos. I thought of all the folks buried under feet of snow, and decided to offer them some hopeful signs of spring. It was approaching noon when I shot these, so apologies in advance for the less-than-stellar quality of some these pictures.
Long ago — over 20 years — I planted a number of traditional spring-flowering bulbs here and there in the yard. I haven’t done anything right by them since. I haven’t divided them, fed them, mulched them (on purpose — some get leaf mulch because they’re under trees), or given them any supplemental water. Despite total neglect, they brighten our late winter/early spring landscape every year.
The daffodils have mostly spread in place, making ever-larger clumps. However, the crocuses travel. I don’t know if birds, insects, or rodents are moving the seeds or corms, but somehow, I now find blooming crocuses in unexpected places. Take, for example, those bright yellow beauties in the top photo. They just appeared beside my pink flowering apricot a few years back, as if to keep it company. That tree has finished blooming, but the location continues its spring show, thanks to these sunny crocuses.
Another volunteer crocus is blooming in deep shade beneath the loropetalums. Every year, I mean to relocate it, but, of course, I forget it when the leaves disappear.
Some crocuses are still blooming where I planted them — more or less. I love the subtle striping on these paler lilac beauties.
I almost overlooked the blooming dwarf crested iris I planted some years back. These diminutive specimens are native to Piedmont floodplains, but horticulturalists have created a number of cultivars. I have long forgotten the name of this variety that continues to thrive among overgrown Verbena ‘Homestead Purple.’
I wrote some time ago about all the volunteer wildflowers — many non-native originally — that have naturalized and taken over much of my “lawn.” Blooming vigorously right now is this little Speedwell. I think it’s Veronica persica, but don’t hold me to that. This clump is growing in my gravel driveway with the rest of the weeds.
Both of my Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clarke’ specimens are still blooming. Peggy Junior is nearly done; she was more severely impacted by a recent bout of sub-freezing weather. Peggy Senior is protected from north winds by our garage. Her branch tops are still filled with fragrant rosy flowers; abundant honeybees enjoy this resource every sunny day now.
As I mentioned previously, this is the first year that my non-native Parrotia persica has bloomed abundantly. It’s still doing so, but most of the flowers in this picture are spent. The brighter pops of magenta here and there are the currently blooming flowers.
The daffodils on the floodplain open first, because the area is a tad warmer than the hilltops. Ice Follies is always the first daffodil to defiantly declare spring’s arrival — sometimes in snow!
The snow drops I showed you in the previous post are now fully open.
About 8, maybe 10 years ago, I planted a hybrid Hellebore. This clump of Lenten Roses grows more enormous every year, and, no, I haven’t gotten around to dividing it. As is usually the case, its flowers begin opening well before the onset of Lent most years.
Inside the deer fence on the north side of my yard, two recently planted specimens are showing their late winter flowers right on schedule. The Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) from last year is completely covered in bright yellow flowers. The new plant we added this year is blooming some, so I’m hoping we’ll get at least a couple of fruits, now that I’ve provided a source for cross pollination.
My hybrid witchhazel, Aurora, is just starting to show off its strappy yellow-and-orange petals. It should be more impressive after a few more years of growth.
Up front beneath the shelter of mature loblolly pines, Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’ is about to explode into snow-white star bursts of potently fragrant glory — assuming no freezes brown petals prematurely.
I can’t close before showing you a couple of native trees now in glorious full bloom throughout my yard. The Red Maples are heating up the forest canopy with their usual crimson display.
Some feet below in the subcanopy, American Hazelnut trees are ornamented by numerous dangling male catkins. Every breeze makes them dance, releasing pollen onto the tiny female flowers scattered among them. These native shrubs/small trees disappear into the landscape when everything leafs out. But right now, they are quite conspicuous. As I wandered around my yard today, I discovered a large specimen growing in my backyard that I had never noticed before.
Then as I walked the creek line, I realized that at least a half dozen more specimens were blooming on my neighbor’s land across the creek. I spotted a very large tree over there so covered in catkins that I wondered how I’d never seen it before.
One final enthusiastic bloomer will close today’s post. This rosemary has been growing against my house for a number of years. I always intend to prune the branches away from the siding when the plant stops blooming, but I’ve discovered it doesn’t really ever stop blooming. I certainly can’t bear to cut it now, when every branch is covered in delicate blue flowers beloved by hungry foraging honeybees. I’ll try to remember to do this in summer, when bloom enthusiasm decreases, and the pollinators have myriad other options.
All of these early flowers are signaling me that it’s time to start some spring vegetable seeds in the greenhouse. When the weather moderates a bit, that will be my next task. Happy February, ya’ll.
Up until last year, my yard lacked Witch Hazels (Hamamelis spp.). They weren’t here when we moved onto our five acres 23+ years ago, and somehow I just hadn’t gotten around to filling that void.
Adding this genus finally rose to the top of my garden must-plant list when I was wandering around the Meadowbrook Nursery Web site. I’ve purchased lovely, healthy native perennials from them before, but I had not noticed that they offer an entire plant category devoted to a gorgeous array of Witch Hazels.
I’ve known about the native Witch Hazels of my region since I was a teenager. Late autumn strolls through nearby woodlands often included a surprise find of a so-called Common Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in fragrant bloom. In its native habitat, H. virginiana can be easy to overlook. Its leaves tend to cling to the plant through early winter, masking the strappy yellow crumpled petals of this understory species. Most of the ones I stumbled on were a bit misshapen from bending to find sunlight through the canopy trees.
But horticulturalists have long appreciated the aesthetic potential of this genus, and have created a diverse array of colorful forms with varying blooming times that can adorn Piedmont gardens from October through February. Yes, that’s right, you can have blooming shrubs and trees in your Piedmont garden through our winter months if you pick the right plant and put it in the right place.
Last year, we planted a hybrid between a Chinese and a Japanese species of Witch Hazel. These hybrids are called Hamamelis x intermedia. The cultivar we chose is Aurora. Our little shrub arrived loaded with fat flower buds that opened to reveal vivid yellow-orange flowers in late winter. It is loaded again this year, and its fall leaf color includes a dazzling array of warm reds, oranges, and yellows. We have every expectation that this thriving specimen will eventually be a breathtaking shrub at least eight feet tall. Imagine a stark February morning woodland landscape warmed by sunny blooms on such a big specimen. It will be magnificent.
But that will be a few years. In the meantime, we still get a surprising number of flowers from our small plant. Here’s a recent photo of it that gives you an idea of its flower bud abundance.
I’ve been so pleased with Aurora that it was easy to talk myself into another Witch Hazel when I needed to add a second plant to my order to meet the minimum cost required for shipping from Meadowbrook Nursery. I had ordered a second Corneliancherry Dogwood (Cornus mas), because the one I planted last year is thriving and I needed a second one to get fruit production via cross pollination.
When I realized I needed a second plant, I instantly turned to the Witch Hazel options. The myriad choices made it tough to decide, but I finally settled on a cultivar of the other North American native species, H. vernalis. This species is native to the Ozark Plateau in central North America, but it happily grows elsewhere when provided good growing conditions. I decided to go with H. vernalis ‘Amethyst,” a beauty with mildly fragrant purple strap-petaled flowers.
The plant I received was already in bloom and is still holding on to green leaves, and I can tell I’m going to very much like this more subtle addition to our landscape. Here it is just after planting.
In this photo, the flowers look more maroon than purple, but in life they do look more purple. Note the abundant healthy green leaves. Theoretically, this plant will bloom a bit later in future years when it is settled, which will make it more likely that the leaves will be gone, thereby allowing the flowers to stand out more. Even now, though, I think the contrast between flower and leaf color is enough to draw attention to the blooms.
Here’s a final shot of the new arrival with a nice layer of mulch surrounding it.
See the plant label? I confess our five acres looks a bit like an arboretum, because many of the plants are labeled. About Year Two into our time here, Wonder Spouse noticed that I was losing track of the names of the cultivars we were adding. And since I’m not a great record keeper (at least not until I started this blog), he insisted that a permanent marker accompany every new plant. This has turned out to be very helpful.
On the front of the metal marker, I write the species and cultivar of the plant. On the back side, I write where I got the plant and when I planted it. The permanent marking pens we use keep the labels legible for at least ten years, depending on the amount of sunlight they receive. If the plant comes with a plastic label looped around it, I usually attach it to the permanent marker. It helps me avoid running over the little newbies when I’m riding around on the lawn tractor.
Coincidentally, the latest edition (November/December) of The American Gardener magazine features a great piece on Witch Hazels. The photographs that accompany the article wonderfully illustrate the visual impact a mature blooming specimen can have in a winter-bare landscape. I highly recommend that you find this article; it’s worth it just for the pictures.
Witch Hazels grow best where soils remain relatively moist. I planted mine at the base of the hill on the north-facing side of my yard. Judging by the health of Aurora, I think I’ve sited my Witch Hazels well. As they grow into mature specimens, I’m expecting that they will light up my winter landscape with color and gentle fragrance. What better way to lead us into the abundance of spring?