A few weeks ago, I was raking leaves in the
Herb Garden. While raking, I slowly became aware of a sweet, musky undertone
filling the air. Now, sweet smells in the Herb Garden are almost always
present-especially the Juicy Fruit Gum smell of the Kapoor Tulsi Basil – so, I
tend to just think, “Yummm” and keep working.
That day, I pulled leaves out of some boxwoods, bumped into a witch
hazel, and realized I had a snoot full of witch hazel blooms tickling my nose
hairs. Ah, ha! I finally made the connection!
Tom Pellett has stated in his talks that if you want constant winter
blooms in your garden from about October to April – just check out the witch
hazels. Of course, flowering time can vary slightly from year to year depending
on the weather, but I walked through the Herb Garden to see where they were in
their bloom cycles. This is what I found:
Hamamelis virginiana is in full bloom and just
beginning to decline, H. virginiana 'Little Suzie'- almost done for
this year, H. vernalis 'Girard's Purple' - almost done for
this year, H. mollis 'Superba' blooming now – at peak, H. x intermedia 'Luna' – will be blooming soon.
Curious as to professionally projected bloom
times, I went to Clemson University’s extension service site (http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/shrubs/hgic1091.html) and found an article on witch hazels. Here is what they listed
as bloom times for the various witch hazels:
Hamamelis virginiana = fall, H. vernalis = late winter/early spring, H. mollis = usually blooms later than H.
vernalis (Feb/Mar for zone 7 upstate South Carolina), H. x intermedia
= varies depending upon the parents, but probably Jan-Mar.
Hmmm. It does sync with my findings!
Witch hazels prefer moist, rich, well-drained,
slightly acidic soils. Clemson says that they are moderately drought tolerant
once established. Light shade to full sun are the requirements they list with
the caveat of: if planted in full sun the soil must be moist. More sun means
more blooms, but I’m not sure I would plant witch hazels in full on all day
blazing sun here in the midsouth. I would definitely hedge my bets with afternoon shade (if
I were to plant in sun). Witch hazels
vary in size depending on species – they can range from about 6’ to 25’ in
optimal conditions so just research the ones you like. I think this would be a
wonderful addition to your garden if you don’t already have one. It is nice to
have the little touch of color at such a monochromatic time of year. The light
fragrance is nice, too – it complements the scent of woodsmoke that spirals
through the breeze at this time of year.
Don’t know what you might want? Google witch
hazel and check out the cultivars, come to the Botanic Garden and walk the
grounds to see the ones we have (Arnold Promise is a really nice one in the
Sensory Garden, others can be found on Daffodil Hill, in Nature Photography
Garden, the Herb Garden, and plantings in front of the front door to the Visitor’s
Center), also, you can check out local nurseries. Your local nurseryman is a
valuable source of information for plants for your area-you might even be able
to see different species/cultivars as they bloom if you shop often.
If you want a witch hazel – be aware that now
is the best time of the year to plant shrubs and trees…
Are you wondering why witch hazel is in the
Herb Garden? Witch hazel leaves, twigs and bark contain substances that are
astringent (helps remove excess oil from skin, and shrink pores), soothing and
hemostatic (controls minor bleeding). It can help reduce inflammation in
injured tissue, thus speeding up healing. Witch hazel is often used to combat
acne, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids. Clemson’s article states:
it is one of the very few American medicinal plants approved as an ingredient
in non-prescription drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Wow, who knew? A pretty, flowering, fragrant tree that has nice
health benefits, as well!
I think I am going to get at least one! Join me?
(ps. Stand near the pyramid sign at the path
juncture between the bridge and the formal area and breathe deeply!)
For updates and more!
Central Daylight Time Hours:
9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Central Standard Time (Winter) Hours:
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
We are located at:
750 Cherry Road
Memphis, TN 38117
(Between Park & Southern)