WayneM@WestonNurseries.com // 508-962-1857


Witch-hazel (hamamelis)


It’s significant that we so rarely see one of my favorite flowering plants in home gardens. The reason is simple (and quite obvious): hybrid witch-hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) starts and finishes its bloom well before most homeowners come to shop at their local garden center. That’s disappointing--few plants inspire such a welcome hope that our dreary winter weather will soon transform into spring. 

Not only is hybrid witch-hazel our earliest garden shrub to bloom, it is fragrant and generally trouble-free. Its flowers are distinctive: “winter’s freezing temperatures keep witch-hazel’s flowers tightly-held in knobby dormant buds, satisfying an obligatory period of cold before blooming can commence. But around mid-February, warmed by sun and above-freezing temperatures, each spidery ¾”-wide fragrant flower petal unfurls (just like a New-Years-Eve-party noise-maker), only to re-furl once again when temperatures drop. This furl-unfurl process continues repeatedly for up to six weeks as temperatures fluctuate between freeze and thaw; I know no hardy woody plant that has a longer bloom period!”[1]

Most cultivars of the early-flowering hybrid witch-hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) are the result of a marriage between the Japanese and Chinese species, H. japonica and H. mollis, exploiting the most appealing features of each species. Cultivars bloom profusely, even when young, in shades of yellow, orange and red, growing vigorously in full sun and normal garden soils, typically reaching 15 ft. high and wide after 10+ years. Resistant to deer browse, their exceptional blooms delight the viewer up close or at a distance. Their cut branches make superb late-winter flower arrangements; and in your yard, their blooms contrast appealingly against a background of evergreens, a dark-colored wall or the sky. 

For those who appreciate how remarkable horticulture can be, the genus Hamamelis uniquely monopolizes New England’s shoulder seasons: it offers flower color well-before (and significantly-after[2]) the blooms of any other hardy flowering shrub. The Gardens at Elm Bank display a number of Hamamelis varieties and cultivars for visitors to enjoy. And an increasingly-wide selection of witch-hazel is now becoming available on the market; ask your local garden center about the types they offer.


[1]“Spring’s First Flowers”, R. Wayne Mezitt, Mass Hort Leaflet, February 2017

[2]Witch-hazel’s native sister Hamamelis virginiana is a common woodland sight in November and into December, just as winter’s cold begins to set in.

Dozens of Cultivars

I'm now offering dozens of blooming-size plants in #5 and #7 pots, now ready for planting in your garden. Please contact me for a complete list of cultivars and sizes available. I can also email images and descriptions, or schedule a visit for you to see the choices in person. Please let me know how I can help get these unique plants more widely appreciated!

Wayne Mezitt