A curious combination

Of handfuls of witch hazels in the garden, one flowers in November and again in February. No, this is not a newfound wonder or a novelty of creative grafting such as 3 in 1 apples, but a mistake.

Long before this witch hazel was planted in the garden, a small section of a red flowered ‘Diane’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’, above) was grafted just above the roots of a single stem of a young common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana, below). Grafting is required since this hybrid will not come true from seed. Once the graft has taken hold, the stem of the common witch hazel must be cut away, and ‘Diane’ grown on. Suckers that grow from beneath the graft must be pruned, or the witch hazel that grows is a combination, and here this unintended blend began.

Of course, the foliage of the two witch hazels is similar enough that I did not recognize the combination upon its purchase, but remarkably, for years I hardly noticed the split periods of flowering. (Too many plants, my wife tells me.) A few times I was curious, but more often wondered why half of the witch hazel flowered and the other didn’t. Ah, but I am not hopelessly clueless, and finally I noticed the still somewhat colorful seed structures (below) on one half and red flowers on the other. Now this makes sense.

So, what to do? Clearly, these are different witch hazels, but now on the same plant. The common witch hazel grows into an upright shrub, while branches of ‘Diane’ are more wide spreading. But, to prune the common witch hazel away will leave a spindly half a shrub that will look awkward for years. Horticulturally, this is the right answer, but instead I will leave it, and perhaps a bit of pruning will even out any misshapen future growth. And I will proudly point out this oddity, an error of inattention to a simple process repeated countless times, but now a curious combination.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathy Copp says:

    I have the exact same situation.Diane is in full bloom right now! I am sure that there is no solution to the suckers that pop up relentlessly,but every year I whack them down occasionally. I also have a Henry Lauders Walking .stick that behaves the same way. Grafting is a great thing,but I wish I would have known about what I needed to do to keep them from looking crazy with the rootstock popping up continiousley. I had to comment on what you wrote. Misery loves company you know!

    1. Dave says:

      I get few suckers on older witch hazels, but always watch for them. I do regularly remove suckers from a red leafed Harry Lauder.

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