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Hamamelis Virginiana American Witch Hazel - This is the only autumn flowering Witch Hazel. Hamamelis Virginiana is also commonly referred to as American Witch Hazel or Virginian Witch Hazel. A petite deciduous tree it grows to a height of 450 to 600 cm with a comparable width so is well-suited to a small garden or cottage setting. It has an upright growth habit and can be grown as a multi-stemmed shrub which makes it an ideal hedgerow shrub or for use in woodland gardens.
During the autumn months when many trees and shrubs no longer bloom, the American Witch Hazel comes alive with a bevy of bright yellow, fragrant flowers, exuding a pleasant sweet spicy perfume. Flower pods spring to life on the tree and burst open. The blooms are clustered along the tree’s arching branches. Each blossom features four unique, crinkled petals that are twisted and have a spider-like resemblance. In many locations, the blooms persist on the tree well into December.
Most varieties of Witch Hazel are winter flowering. Interestingly, Hamamelis Virginiana produces an abundance of autumn flowers even when last years seed capsules are maturing on the twigs and popping out seeds. The seed capsules measure about a centimeter in length and first appear a bright green. Upon maturity, they turn brown and even look woody. Each capsule takes a year to mature. Upon maturity, the seed capsule splits in half and forcefully ejects the tiny black seeds up to 10 meters. The ejection process is audible and sounds like a loud popping noise.
Each spring, dense bright green foliage emerges. The leaves are scalloped and mature to a matte finish. When fall arrives the foliage turns a buttery yellow that accentuates the flowers. After the leaves fall from the tree, the branches still offer visual interest because of their zigzagging nature and greyish hue.
Hamamelis Virginiana is a native American shrub. It is exceptionally easy to grow. The tree prefers full sun or partial shade. When planted in full sun it produces the most abundant flowers. It tolerates virtually any well-draining soil but prefers a slightly acidic ph. The tree rarely requires pruning, however, suckers should be removed from the base to maintain it in tree form if desired. It can be pruned in the spring to maintain its shape and size.
The American Witch Hazel received its denotation of ‘witch’ because the wood of the tree is commonly used as a divining device to search for water. It is also believed to hold magical qualities. Plant the Hamamelis Virginiana in any woodland garden, mixed shrub border, alongside banks/slopes, or use as a hedge or part of a hedgerow.