It’s that time of year when the scent of the witch hazel begins to waft through the woods. True, the fragrance of the American native witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, doesn’t have the penetration of the spring flowering Asian species but it’s a treat to catch its sharp sweetness on the way to mailbox in the morning.
This year it seems especially prolific – and it’s also opening while the foliage is still green and still on the plants. So unless you knew, you’d be wondering where the scent was coming from as the flowers are almost completely hidden. The flowers usually appear on bare branches, and the presence of the leaves disguises the fact that when you see a whole group of plants… well, it’s the usual thing with so many natives in the wild: the plants vary, in this case in the flowers vary in color, in length of petals and in exactly when they open (some are earlier than others).
At the same time, the foliage of the familiar hybrid of two Asian species, H. x intermedia ‘Mollis’, is just starting to color up in the garden. No flowers till spring, and a much more pervasive scent, but soon it will be covered in beautiful buttery and gold leaves.