I’ve told the story before (and will again), always with profound disappointment, that a mature ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’, below) faded and finally succumbed in an area of the rear garden that gradually became too damp. The loss of dear and long established plants is always tragic, but this witch hazel particularly so as it brightened many dreary winter days.
A much smaller replacement has been planted (only four feet tall, the other was triple that), still a few years from making much of a show, but with flowers that make the long winter slightly more bearable. A drier location promises a longer life for this witch hazel, and for ‘Diane’ (below) and ‘Jelena’ witch hazels that were planted following Arnold’s demise.
In recent years, a Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis, below) has grown to maturity (twelve feet, maybe taller), along with two others (much smaller) planted in shade that delays, but seemingly does not detract from flowering in January. The three witch hazels, purchased separately over several years, were all mistakenly labeled as the eastern native Common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). The appearance of common and vernal witch hazels is not significantly different, though common flowers in November and vernal in January, so there is little trouble telling one from the other.
In fact, I do not regret the error. Vernal witch hazel is an exceptional shrubby tree for the winter garden, and one of the few fragrances that my handicapped sense of smell can detect on a still and sunny winter afternoon. I would happily give it another try to plant a common witch hazel, and several more of the hybrids, if only there was space. I wonder how any gardener can survive the winter without one or the other.