Gardening: Let cheerful witch hazel cast magic spell in winter

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Although the late winter garden may still seem dull, spring is just around the corner. You can see signs of it now.

We are looking forward to a great year in the gardens here at Harlow Carr. Many spring flowering trees and shrubs are just waiting to burst into bloom, if they haven’t already. There are plenty of projects to keep you busy in the garden this month which will give you a head start on the upcoming season.

Here at Harlow Carr the Hamamelis are looking absolutely amazing. Hamamelis Virginiana and Hamamellis Mollis are starting to flower and smell scrumptious. A couple of my favourites are Hamamellis japonica and x intermedia ‘pallida’, which are filling the garden with an incredible scent and brightening up some of these grey days.

We are about to increase our stocks of Hamamelis here in the gardens making the woodland one of the best collections in the north.

Hamamelis witch hazel is very well known and can be used for a huge variety of purposes such as dowsing rods to locate water, and medicinal uses - its astringent properties are used to cleanse and soothe skin, with its high tannin content it can dry, tighten and harden tissue and remove excess oil. Excellent for haemorrhoids, bruises, reduction of swelling, reducing bags under your eyes and for gardeners’ hands, I use it myself on a regular basis! It’s even good for insect bites.

I have spent a good few winters working in the gardens now and this time of year is one of my favourite for all the scents and colours that brighten the dreary winter days.

Hamamelis especially brings winter cheer, Hamamellis Mollis or Chinese witch hazel is a species of flowering plant in the witch hazel family, Hamamelis daceae, native to central and eastern China, is a deciduous large shrub growing to around 8 meters tall.

The Latin term ‘mollis’ means ‘soft’ and refers to the felted leaves which turn a bright yellow in autumn. The flowers are yellow often with a red base and four ribbon shaped petals around 15mm long, four short stamens growing in clusters.

Hamamellis mollis flowers in late winter/ early spring on bare branches and is valued for its strong scent.

Another good one for any garden is Hamamellis x intermedia, bright cheery yellow flowers (December – February) with a heavenly scent and an RHS Garden Merit award. It grows to a height of around 4 meters, spectacular autumn colour turning from bright green to shades of yellow, orange and red - lovely! Perfect for a sunny or partially shaded border, or woodland garden.

If you fancy spicing up your garden a few excellent varieties to choose from are, Hamamellis x intermedia ‘pallida Diane’ - pink orange, Ruby Glow – red Barnstedt - gold, Rochester Livia, Aurora, Arnold Promise

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