Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Witch Hazel in Bloom

February and March: Witch hazel season in New England. No shrub that's hardy to Zone 6 and colder provides as much of a show when the weather's still chilly and mean.

 

Here's an old variety in flower in my local park.

 

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Drat: No label. It's a fool's errand to try to identify mystery witch hazels. There are many score of cultivars available, and the differences among them can be subtle even if you've got the two bushes side by side, and you're sure of their identity to begin with.

 

This shrub above is mature, and is, therefore, a few years old. New witch hazel cultivars are brought to the market so often that to identify it would almost mean needing to know the year of its introduction. There are going to be who-knows-how-many cultivars with medium-orange petals, so mere appearance isn't usually enough to pin down the cultivar.

 

Here's another cultivar in that same park. Its pale-yellow petals suggest that it might be the old classic 'Pallida'. See the Fall foliage, still persisting as Winter grinds onward toward Spring? There's such interest in witch hazels that drop their foliage cleanly and promptly that new forms that shed well—"abscising" is the Latin—are now the norm. Does 'Pallida' have difficulty abscising? Alas, my usual sources aren't saying.

 

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And so what if the leaves do hang around? Their deep red hue echoes the color of the calyx cup that backs each flower's quartet of yellow streamer-like petals. And their size is a good contrast, too. Maybe tardy abscising isn't so bad, after all.

 

Below, a third witch hazel in that same park, even larger and older. The clusters of bright yellow-orange flowers are amazingly full, and the foliage has the same difficulty with abscising. The leaves are noticeably lighter than those of the cultivar above—and they also coordinate well with the flowers.

 

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Here, finally, is a peek at my own shrub, the 'Arnold Promise' cultivar. "A P" is a good absciser, and this year, it seems a bit late in flowering. It's certainly far behind the others and, compared to last year, it's also far behind itself. When I posted on this shrub in 2012, it was in full flower on February 13.

 

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The delay is probably not that the other three witch hazels are growing in a public park that's six or seven miles closer to the mild (comparatively) water of the Long Island Sound. It isn't related to Blizzard Nemo, either, which was messy and heavy, but not unusually cold for the season.

 

The real quirk was how early last year's flowers were, which was a matter of unusually warm February weather. 'Arnold Promise' is notable, instead, for its late flowering, which can extend through March into April. And that's OK. As much as any February flowers are a boon, March can still be skimpy. And it's a long month to get through until April, which brings the peak of the next of the showy early-season bloomers, Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas.

 

This year, then, 'Arnold Promise' is right on schedule.

 

The solution to having witch hazel in full flower earlier than 'Arnold Promise'? Plant a number of witch hazels. A collection—no, a coven of "witches." Then one or more will be in flower from October through April.

 

Here's how 'Arnold Promise' looks in full bloom, and how to grow it to perfection.

 

Here's a look at much earlier-blooming form of witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana 'Harvest Moon', which can be in full flower in November.

 

Here's a look at yet a third form of witch hazel, the unique weeping cultivar, Hamamelis vernalis 'Lombart's Weeping', which has been in flower since January.

 
 
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