We’re starting the year in blooms the same way we ended the year in blooms, with a Witch Hazel. This one is Ozark Witch Hazel, Hamamelis vernalis. A smaller witch hazel, this one should top out in the landscape at 8-10′ tall and wide. Like the others, spectacular fall colors in hues of yellow and golds. Native from Missouri to Louisiana and Oklahoma, the flowers open very early in the spring, a 4 calyx flower with the ability to close up and wait should the weather turn cold again. This can extend the blooming time for 4 weeks or more. Down south they suffer from an inability to drop their leaves, hiding the lovely flowers, but does not seem to be an issue this far north.
Many cultivars have been selected, most trending toward red. The cultivar I bought for my house (and saw blooming yesterday) is “Purpurea”, aptly named once you see the blooms. The foliage should have a purplish tint all season-I purchased it in the fall with a spectacular red purple color.
On campus, the witch hazel is blooming just east of the Garden of the Seasons, as a cluster of three in the swale. They were only planted a couple of years ago, so, while well established, are just beginning to grow and fill out. A book I got for my birthday, Lives of the Trees, states the witch in Witch Hazel comes from wych, or wican, meaning flexible or springy, like the hazel. Furthermore, the latin Hamamelis comes from hama, meaning together, and melis, meaning apple, for their tendency to fruit and flower together. This happened on campus in the fall, but this spring we are only graced with the seed pods on the spring witch hazel scattered amongst the blooms.
Am I making the call to say spring is here? Heck no. Am I hopeful? Yeah. Lots.