Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Witch-hazels against mid-winter gloom

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Orange Beauty' in full bloom at the Witt Winter Garden.
The witch-hazels are out again, spreading their spicy honey-scent around in the winter-wet gardens of Seattle. Two years ago, I wrote about witch-hazels and other midwinter wonders in the Witt Winter Garden at the Washington Arboretum, and yesterday, I decided to check out how they were doing this year. Wonderfully, as my pictures can tell.
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Winter Beauty' with burnt orange stamens that darken towards the maroon flowers.
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I'd always thought that the name 'witch-hazel' had something to do with the plant's many medicinal qualities - it has been traditionally used as an astringent and to prevent hemorrhages - but Vita Sackville-West tells otherwise in her Garden book. She writes that the early settlers of North America took the characteristically forked twigs of the native Hamamelis virginiana and used them for water-divining, as they had used hazel-twigs back in England. The plant got its name from this as any twig that would twitch in the hand had something to do with a witch or a wizard in the old days, at least according to Vita.
*A Hamamelis x intermedia cultivar with a bit darker orange ribbons... it looks a lot like 'Jelena', but I couldn't find a name tag to confirm my thoughts.
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Besides the three native North American species, Hamamelis virginiana, H. ovalis och H. vernalis, the most beautiful witch-hazels come from China and Japan, as so many other distinct garden plants. Hamamelis x intermedia, a hybrid of Chinese H. mollis and Japanese H. japonica, has produced many garden-worthy species. Their flowers are like tiny fireworks, cascades of them exploding with both colour and scent from the twisted branches. As a picked flowers, witch-hazels are long-lasting and capable of filling a whole room with their fresh, spicy scent.
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Fire charm' has pinkish red stamens with delicate, white edging.
Sometimes I entertain myself by making mental lists of plants that I would like to have in my garden in Saltsjöbaden. Witch-hazel always comes up there within the top ten or twenty, and luckily, there are several cultivars I could plant even in the cold climate of Sweden. As Vita says, they are tough and will grow in any soil and any aspect, though the better they are treated, the better they will do (she adds that this applies to most people too...). I think a little grove of them would make cheery sight together with the thousands of snowdrops that already thrive under the big oaks, brightening up dreary mid-winter days. As it seems now, I still have some time to decide which cultivar to choose from the all tempting alternatives...
I think I'll go for the 'Orange Beauty' - its lucious, citrusy colour scheme can truly chase away the gloom on a dark winter day.


Ruben said...

Tycker absolut att du skall plantera några trollhasslar i Saltsjöbaden. Jag har den gulblommande varianten. Dessa blommor är för det mesta ganska oansenliga, och det verkar som de är litet större vartannat år (egen, högst ovetenskaplig studie). Bladverket är väldigt vackert!
Ha det gott, och köp med dig en stickling hem. Jag tror inte det finns så många varianter att välja på i våra plantskolor. Ta en av de rödblommande! ;-)

Carol said...

Beautiful post Ingrid! Every year I aspire towards finding and planting a Hamamelis of my own! I truly must do it this year. Your photos are beautiful and you have inspired me to read Vita's book again.

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Hej Ruben, det är en bra idé, jag har grubblat lite på hur jag kan flytta vissa saker till Sverige. Flyttcontainern tar alltid över två månader att anlända och man får inte packa något levande i den. Men jag får väl packa en extra resväska för sticklingar, några lökar och småplantor. Lite tid till...

Hi Carol, my name is Liisa, but I do like the name Ingrid, too -:) !

scottweberpdx said...

Just beautiful...I've become very enamored of the Witch Hazels...I even planted a relative (Parrotia Persica) in our parking strip last fall...and happily, it looks like they are about to bloom for the first time...can't wait!

Annika Christensen said...

Vilket fyrverkeri du bjuder på!
Jag skulle kunna tänka mig de flesta av dem. Jag har bara en vanligt gul.
Kul att du tittade in hos mig.
Ha de gott

Rose Garden Malevik said...

hmmmmm.......här kan man nog skriva på svenska :)
Underbara bilder....

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Hei Håkan, visst kan man skriva på svenska. Just nu bor jag i USA så inläggen är på engelska. Tack för berömmet, jag måste kolla din blog, den har jag missat!

HA said...

En sådan härlig samling trollhassel! Och dina bilder är supersnygga, jag funderade just om jag ska kommentera på engelska, svenska eller finska, men det ser ut som svenskan vinner här :-)

Din blogg är jättebra, jag är mycket glad över upptäckten!