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Enjoy three seasons of beauty with witch hazelS

Witch hazel is an intriguing plant from the minute you first see it. You want to know more. Maybe it is the fact that it blooms in February and March and does not seem fazed by cold and cloudy winter days. Maybe it’s the beautifully fragrant and unusual spider-like flowers. Maybe it’s that anything flowering in the winter is a welcome sight.

The witch hazels (Hamamelis x intermedia) are like sculptures or art in the landscape. They can have unusual shapes. Consider planting a matching pair and prepare to be disappointed. It’s hard to discern what their ultimate shape and size may turn out to be at planting. It’s an endearing quality.

Witchhazel-Wisley-Supreme Photo: Shelly Nold

They are considered to be a large shrub or small tree. On average, they can grow from 8 to 15 feet tall and most often equally wide, but not always. Specific cultivars do have some more concrete size parameters, but each seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to shape. You can use some pruning techniques to guide them in the direction you want, but it is just a guide.

The flowers are always what draw me in. Walking on a cold winter day and getting a whiff of what smells like spring is always a joy. The fragrance can be subtle when plants are young, but as they grow and develop more and more flowers, it becomes beautifully obvious. Close-up, the flowers look like colorful spiders and can be yellow, red or copper and often combinations of the three. Because the flowers are subtle, plant witch hazels in a location where you can enjoy them in the winter. The site should have good, well-drained soil, as well as receive full sun to part shade.

Witchhazel-foliage. Photo: Shelly Nold

Enjoy the flowers, but also their leaves, which have distinct veins and a wavy margin giving them beautiful texture in the summer. Then, in the fall, you are rewarded with beautiful yellow, red or purple for an excellent fall color show. Consider planting a witch hazel in your garden this spring, and you will have three seasons of intriguing beauty ahead to enjoy.

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.

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