Color from Late Winter Flowers and Bark

Color from Late Winter Flowers and Bark

Pictured: Cornis Sericea: “Arctic Fire” adds interest in Winter with its colorful bark.

Plants create interest in the garden in many ways: foliage, flowers, fruit, bark, form, and so on.  Adding new plants to a mature garden sometimes means removing plants that have begun to decline. It is a process that spurs the evolution of a garden.

Recently, a friend, Richard Schnall, of Rosedale nursery in Hawthorne, New York, brought a selection of Witch Hazel stems to our monthly meeting of Hortus Club. These Witch Hazels are hybrid crosses of Hamamelis Japonica and Hamamelis Mollis – both Asian species. They bloom in February/ March with an amazing array of color and fragrance.

Our native Witch Hazel, Hamamelis Virginiana, blooms in November and is commonly used to distill medicinal Witch Hazel, which is often used to remove excess oil from skin and is used for treatment for swelling. The stems were utilized in earlier times as divining rods to source water on local farms. One can still visit old Witch Hazel  patches in Essex, Connecticut, near the site of the Dickinson headquarters.

Witch Hazel flowers have the ability to curl up on very cold days as a protective mechanism. All Witch Hazels are in the family Hamamelidaceae, of which its’ members tend to have excellent Fall color, and tolerance of dappled shade. Sleepy Cat Farm has a large stand of Fothergilla Gardenii, another native member, which has fragrant bottle brush-shaped blooms in early Spring.

An additional way of creating Winter interest in the garden is to place plants with colorful stems in surprising spots. We plan to relocate some “tired” Ilex Verticillata (Winterberry Holly) and replace them with a new cultivar called Cornus Sericea “ Arctic Fire” (also known as the native Red Osier Dogwood). It is a shade and moist-tolerant shrub with colorful bark on new growth. The location of the plants is just around a bend, which creates a surprise in the Winter garden. By removing  a percentage of stems older than two years every year, one can promote the colorful new growth.

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