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February, 2019

Bewitching witch hazels

Finally, the days are starting to get a little longer (although the dark mornings can still be a bit of a drag!). While spring may still be aways off, take heart from some of the great things going on in the garden. We usually think of winter bulbs, such as Aconites and snow drops at this time of year, but there are a number of other plants delivering superb interest at this time of year, notably in the form of flowering, often scented, shrubs.

Quietly delivering colour and fragrance in the garden right now are some lovely shrubs that for most of the rest of the year pretty much fade into the background but really come into their own in January and February. I'm referring of course to the witch hazels, or Hamamelis to use their Latin name. This is a group of deciduous shrubs that are grown mainly for their amazing spidery flowers which make them immediately recognisable. Witch hazels come in a range of flame-coloured hues, from acid yellow to red through burnished copper and orange. Three of our favourites are featured below, from left to right: Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'; Hamamelis x intermedia 'Pallida'; Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'.

They prefer full sun in an open but sheltered spot in acidic to neutral, well-drained soil. The fragrant flowers are carried on bare wood and they look fabulous in a sunny, winter border along side the coloured stems of dogwoods (Cornus). Witch hazels give you three bangs for your buck: flowers, fragrance and great autumn foliage. Give them penty of space and grow as a specimen shrub or small tree and you'll be rewarded with zingy colour and fragrance to help get you through the depths of winter.