Winter flames

Wisps of red, orange or yellow scented flowers, borne in the dead of winter, as well as autumn colour make witch hazels very desirable garden plants.  The Greek words ‘hama’ (meaning ‘at the same time’) and ‘melon’, (meaning ‘fruit or apple’) come together to make the Latin name Hamamelis, established by Linnaeus in 1742.  Hippocrates had previously used this name for the medlar (Mespilus germanica) as both plants can display flowers and fruit at the same time. 

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Orange Peel'

The four species in this genus; virginiana, vernalis, (both from America), japonica and molis (from Japan and China) are very closely related and can be crossed to produce fertile offspring, giving us the wealth of cultivars available.  Chris Lane’s monograph ‘Witch Hazels’ gives detailed descriptions of the four species and their hybrids and notes how these plants are particularly susceptible to growing conditions and weather variations.  Apparently red-flowered hybrids on the same plant can look very different year on year depending on the weather and if induced to flower early by drought, will produce yellow flowers.

With the exception of virginiana all are winter flowering and cope very well with cold temperatures.  National Collections are held by the Sir Harold Hilliers Garden in Hampshire, Witch Hazel Nursery in Kent (Open Days on 22nd January and 5th February), and Mrs Pat Edwards in Wolverhampton (Open Day on 29th January) who is featured in the January 2012 issue of The Garden magazine.  
On presentation of a valid membership card, Plant Heritage members can get ‘two for the price of one’ entry to Hilliers Gardens during January and February.  (Print out the voucher below the slide show)

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2 for 1 entry
Sir Harold Hillier Garden

Print off and present voucher and a valid Plant Heritage membership card at point of sale.
Offer for two full paying adults or concessions (cheapest goes free).
Not in conjunction with any other offer.
Excludes groups and special events where an extra charge may apply. 

Valid until February 29th 2012 

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