A witch hazel’s first bloom

Anxiously, I wait for first color on a vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) planted in late summer. This tree, a stocky seven footer I was fortunate to find, replaced a witch hazel that suffered in last year’s flooding rains, proving that even the sturdiest plants can suffer from too much or little.

In fact, the first witch hazel (above) did not die, but it was severely diminished and malformed, and I feared with obvious root damage from excess moisture that it was likely to languish for far too long. The stump and roots remain, and I expect to see long stems shoot up in the spring, just behind the newly planted tree. I am undecided what to do when that happens.

In order to prevent an unfortunate recurrence of the new witch hazel suffering from overly damp ground, though another year with thirty some additional inches of rainfall seems unlikely, the planting area has been extended and excess soil from trenching the edges has raised the bed area. The fading witch hazel was removed, the ground prepared, and the new tree planted in the midst of our mid and late summer drought. Immediately, the new witch hazel defoliated, but after a short period of concern several new leaves appeared, and all flower buds look good. I will know for certain with the first color in the next few weeks.

Flowers of the vernal witch hazel variety slightly in color each year.

The vernal witch hazel has smaller and less colorful flowers than mid winter flowering, hybrid witch hazels in the garden, but this spot required the shrubby mass of the vernal witch hazel. It will also be depended upon for flowers a few weeks earlier than the brightly colored hybrids.