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Plant Eye-catching Witch Hazel This Spring For Winter Garden

OFTEN IGNORED BUT ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL plants for the garden is witch hazel. Because it blooms in winter, it often gets ignored in the spring planting rush. Eclectic or almost sculpture-like, you often see it planted singly and in a position to be enjoyed from inside the home.

WITCH HAZEL IS AN UPRIGHT SHRUB that averages 8-12 feet in height, although it can reach 15-20 feet tall. You often see plants that are quite wide or more spreading than tall depending on how they are grown. Light pruning when the plants are young can produce a consistently taller plant that is more densely branched. This is more desirable when you have a small or more urban space. For larger spaces let them grow unpruned.

FLOWERING OCCURS BETWEEN JANUARY AND MARCH, depending on the weather. Because of the cool temperatures, flowering lasts for several weeks and is usually not affected by our normal winter weather. The flower is unusual in shape and almost spider-like, with 1-inch long, skinny petals that twist and turn making it look fluffy, when in fact it is not. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ is known to be one of the best coppery-orange witch hazels and is slightly fragrant. The fragrance is not strong, so it is more noticeable when the plants are mature because of the sheer volume of flowers.

IT IS EASY TO GROW AND DOES BEST IN FULL SUN to part shade. You will be rewarded by planting it in your garden because it has beautiful foliage in spring and summer. The simple egg-shaped leaves can be 3-5 inches long and have a sturdy feel. Leaf color is usually gray to blue or pale green. Fall color is generally excellent on all plants, with the copper-colored varieties known for having slightly better fall color than the yellow-flowered varieties. Plant one this spring and be rewarded with a beautiful plant that steals the show before spring begins.


ASK THE GARDENER

by Angie McManus

Q A while back I read about some places that have the “old-fashioned” seed for tomatoes and other vegetables. Would you have their Web sites or e-mail addresses?

A There is nothing more satisfying than planting a seed, watching it grow, and enjoying the food it produces. Regarding reputable companies that offer heirloom seeds, there are several choices, including these:

• Renee’s Garden Seeds, www.reneesgarden.com, (888) 880-7228, in California, offers a large variety of organic heirloom seeds.

• Baker Creek Seeds, www.rareseeds.com, (417) 924-8917, Missouri, is another great source for nontreated, heirloom seeds.

• Seed Savers Exchange, www.seedsavers.org, (563) 382-5990, Iowa, is a nonprofit member organization where you can purchase heirloom seeds. You can call for a catalog.

• In Kentucky, Ferry-Morse Seed Company, located in Fulton, www.ferry-morse.com, (270) 472-3400 or (800) 626-3392, offers several heirloom varieties (type “heirloom” in the search box), available at retail locations.

Read more about heirlooms in a previous garden article at Heirloom Heritage.


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