Witch Hazels can bring a little bit of magic to a winter garden. They might have some sorcery in them too. More on that in a bit.
First, we should introduce HAMAMELIS x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’. Quite how a plant that’s a cross between the Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis) and Japanese witch hazel (Hamamelis japonica), came to be known as ‘Arnold Promise’ is beyond us. Maybe it was Arnold who did the ‘crossing’ and he promised his boss it would work? Regardless, it gave us a shrub abundant with wavy yellow petals set against a fiery red cup. The appearance, accompanied by the sweetest winter waft, is juxtaposed with bare branches and grey skies. For the winter garden, it is a most welcome sight and don’t worry if the flowers curl up on particularly frosty mornings. They are merely taking shelter and will soon open up when the winter sun brings them a little warmth.
Slightly less strangely named but no less mysteriously, is HAMAMELIS x Intermedia ‘Diane’. Hardy and beautiful, this medium to large, vase-shaped shrub similarly defies the season with a colourful show. Its dense clusters of flowers are more of an eye-catching copper-red and have their own sweet scent, a welcome addition to the otherwise dampness of this time of year.
With ‘Diane’ you don’t have to wait until winter to see that glorious colour (the same goes for ‘Arnold Promise’).
As you can see in the images, Autumn is very much the beginning of the show.
Now to that sorcery. In the USA, witch hazel is an over-the-counter drug used to soothe minor skin irritations. Indeed, many believe witch hazel to have a positive effect on the skin and it has been used to treat psoriasis and eczema, even acne.