Landscape Spotlight: Witch Hazel; Hamamelis Virginiana

Posted March 24, 2016 in Blog, General, Plant and Tree

What are your prerequisites for selecting plants for your home’s landscape?  Do the plantings need to be colorful?  Aromatic?  Strong and resilient?  Well, let me tell you that the Hamamelis Virginiana, or communally known as the common witch hazel, has all of these qualifications and has an interestingly unique flower to boot!

This deciduous shrub has been recorded to reach heights of 35′ in its natural habitat, but for landscaping purposes, you can expect this shrub to reach about 10-15′ tall with an almost comparable spread.  The sheer grandiosity of this shrub can easily make it a focal point on your property.  With that being said, planting it where it can be easily seen from inside your home will prove to be a cold weather treat.

witch hazelThis witch hazel really shines when the temperatures start to dip, and it is not shy!  Once the fall arrives, the leaves of this shrub turn a bright gold just as the rest of the leaves in your landscape are falling away for the season.  When your landscape is bare, the flowers of the witch hazel begin their showy display.  Clusters of small yellow flowers start to appear and seemingly burst from the branches like streamers out of a firecracker.  Once you see a witch hazel flower, it is hard to forget its crumpled string-like petals.  The odd, yet delicate looking flowers deceptively look fragile, but they can withstand pretty cold temperatures.  The blooms will last into December, giving your landscape a buttery look against the white snow.

The fragrance of these flowers is slight, but can easily be picked out through the cold and crisp air.  Scientists suspect that the delayed flowering of this plant is so they seem more appealing to pollinators, since they are the only game in town during this time.  The fragrance, along with its peculiar petals work together in harmony attract these pollinators!  Through the winter and into the growing season, the fertilized witch hazel flowers will form fruit on its smooth, gray branches.  These seed capsuled will split open in the fall of the following year, exploding and spitting out two black seeds which can travel up to 30′!  If the seeds are not eaten by hungry birds and critters, within a year or two the undisturbed seeds form new shrubs.

A few interesting facts: In early history, witch hazel was used in many different ways and believed to have many healing qualities.  witch hazelEarly settlers used the witch hazel branches as dowsing rods to locate underground water sources, with an amazingly high success rate.  The oils from the branches and flowers were also used in medicinal concoctions to aid in everything from inflammation, bruises and sore muscles.  In our modern age, we actually still do use witch hazel in many applications.  We use the sap as a scented ingredient in lotions, soaps, deodorants, detergents, and it can also be found in astringents, medicines and teas.  Whether this beauty is used for remedies or aesthetics, the common witch hazel is an ideal shrub to have in your landscape.

So, if you are looking for a new addition to your outdoor plan that has a rich history, character and fragrance, look no further because this witch hazel is your go-to and is certain to please!  If you are looking for a go-to landscape designer for knowledge and expertise, look no further than MasterPLAN Landscape Design!  MasterPLAN is ready to help, educate and turn your outdoor dreams into a reality.  Serving the Poconos, Lehigh Valley and continuing through the Philadelphia areas, we can guide you through the backyard transformation process.  Let us show you our passion by designing, managing and constructing an outdoor living space for you and your family to love and enjoy.  When you are ready to reach out, we are ready to listen!

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