Sadly, the large ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ below) is now a pile of sticks tossed aside in the rear garden. For now, there are too many branches accumulated from shrubs killed in the winter to get rid of them properly, but eventually the piles will be consolidated and disposed of. I was hardly bothered by losses of large magnolias and a long established Hinoki cypress to winter’s cold, but ‘Arnold Promise’ was treasured for its bright yellow blooms in mid February, and I’ll look for a spot to plant another.
But, not in this same place, where the witch hazel was an unfortunate victim of ground that was once intermittently damp, but now is wet more often than not. ‘Arnold Promise’ grew to ten feet tall in this area without showing any signs of stress until the past two years, then it rapidly went downhill. Just beside the witch hazel, and a neighboring holly that is also in decline, there is a natural spring that once flowed occasionally, but in recent years it is now more constant. Why, I can’t tell, but it’s a shame to lose an old timer, particularly one that was a beacon in the otherwise dreary late winter garden.
The immediate concern was to fill the area vacated by the witch hazel. I’m afraid that the large holly will also be lost, so I considered shrubs that would grow large enough to fill this gaping hole and shield the holly as its fate is decided. The spot is mostly sunny, so I quickly decided to plant another panicled hydrangea, ‘Fire and Ice’ (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Wim’s Red’ P.P.A.F.). ‘Limelight’ and ‘Tardiva’ panicled hydrangeas grow vigorously on the opposite property line, and with distinctive colors on fading blooms through autumn, ‘Fire and Ice’ should fill this spot quite well (though not as satisfactorily as ‘Arnold Promise’).