Witch hazel for win­ter show and fine scent

Central Otago Mirror - - TV TIMES -

No­body likes a show-off, but for witch hazels ( Ha­mamelis) I could make an ex­cep­tion. Each win­ter de­li­ciously scented blooms emerge on zig-zag stems even in the harsh­est weather. Stand nearby and you’ll catch a whiff of the sweet, spicy scent; cut a branch for in­doors and it will perfume the air for at least two weeks. Close up, the flow­ers are rather odd in ap­pear­ance – al­most spi­dery, with rib­bon-like petals un­furl­ing from a red ca­lyx. But th­ese but­ter­scotch blooms are spec­tac­u­lar against mostly bare branches in win­ter, made all the more agree­able for last­ing a good five to six weeks. This small tree, grow­ing 3-4m high, is ideal for any gar­den, in­clud­ing the smaller back­yard. It’s ro­bust, sur­viv­ing cool tem­per­a­tures by curl­ing up its petals when frosts ap­pear and un­furl­ing them when the sun comes out to warm them. In am­ple sun and loamy, well-drained soil, th­ese long-lived plants will thrive, but even in less than per­fect con­di­tions they’re adapt­able enough to still put on a good show. In hot ar­eas they may ben­e­fit from some shade from the af­ter­noon sun. They do like a cool root run and would pre­fer not to be dry. If leaves be­gin to droop in warm, dry pe­ri­ods, a good wa­ter­ing is on the cards. Mulch the soil to keep it moist. Witch hazels are not easy to grow from cut­tings so most forms

Ha­mamelis ‘Je­lena’ pro­duces an au­tumn show of thick golden leaves. The flow­ers are clus­ters of yel­low and cop­per-or­ange. avail­able are grafted, more of­ten than not onto Ha­mamelis vir­gini­ana root­stock. Ha­mamelis x in­terme­dia are some of the best witch hazels. Th­ese are hy­brids be­tween the chi­nese witch hazel, Ha­mamelis mol­lis, and the ja­panese witch hazel, Ha­mamelis japon­ica. Some of the stand-out hy­brids in­clude Ha­mamelis x in­terme­dia ‘Je­lene’, Ha­mamelis x in­terme­dia ’Diane’ and Ha­mamelis x in­terme­dia ‘Pal­l­ida’. ‘Je­lena’, one of the loveli­est witch hazels, pro­duces clus­ters of yel­low and cop­per-or­ange flow­ers. In au­tumn, it’s bright green leaves turn red and yel­low too, of­fer­ing an­other show-off per­for­mance dur­ing the year. It grows 2.5m-4m high, so it’s well suited to the ur­ban back­yard. ‘Diane’ is one of the best reds, with large carmine-red flow­ers from late win­ter/early spring. As with all witch hazels, the scented flow­ers stand out like bea­cons on bare stems. It, too, has good au­tumn colour. This hy­brid is smaller grow­ing, to 2-3m high. ‘Pal­l­ida’ is a pop­u­lar hy­brid with very fra­grant, lemon-yel­low flow­ers from late win­ter. In au­tumn its leaves turn yel­low. It grows 3-4m. Then there is the species Ha­mamelis mol­lis, also grow­ing 3-4m high. In his book Trees and Shrubs for Fra­grance, Kiwi gar­dener and hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Glyn Church says this is the best species for gar­dens, ‘‘with the abil­ity to bloom when very young. Good in the vase or in the gar­den, the de­light­fully sugar-scented, rich yel­low flow­ers are much more fra­grant than other species.’’ What more could you want from an or­na­men­tal tree?

Spindly: Witch hazel blooms are al­most spi­dery, with rib­bon-like petals un­furl­ing from a red ca­lyx.

Golden glow:

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