For late fall and winter, gardeners look to create interest with structure, evergreens, berries, and interesting bark. Very few plants, though, are actually flowering. This is where witch hazel makes its entrance!
These intriguing shrubs and small trees have a branching structure which can be quite architectural. The fall color is gorgeous. In our area witch hazels grow well in sun and partial shade. The wispy, papery blossoms of late fall and winter really seal the deal.
Our native witch hazel in the eastern U.S. is “Hamamelis virginiana.” Native witch hazel has yellow blossoms, sometimes with a tinge of red or orange, and typically blooms in late fall, though depending on conditions, can bloom later. Another witch hazel native to the central part of the U.S., “Hamamelis vernalis,” does bloom later.
Witch Hazels are great near a window where you can see the winter blooms or out in the garden backlit by the sun. You can easily prune them to stay small if needed.
If you are looking for the native, please be aware there are many Asian witch hazels and hybrids for sale. If I were looking for a native, I would call ahead or order on-line to ensure you actually can get it. I bought a witch hazel labeled as native but now, given the bloom time and orange hues, pictured here, I am not quite sure what we have. Witch hazels are stunners though and well worth any effort to find just the right one.
For more information:
From the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center check here.
The Brooklyn Botanical Garden has a great, concise overview of witch hazels here.
About a trial of different witch hazels by the Chicago Botanical Garden, including the native with hazel and four cultivars of it, please look here.