Monday, July 25, 2011

Hamamelis mollis Chinese Witch Hazel

Found by European plant hunter Charles Maries he introduced this plant to England in 1879 and in 1918 the great plant collector E H Wilson introduced some more plants to grow from a different area of China. It is a native of the West Hubei and Kiangsi provinces and grows naturally in scrub and woodland from 1500m to 2500m.

Hamamelis (Greek for pear shaped fruit) is the principal genus of the family Hamamelidaceae which has 20 genera some of which are very hardy and some of which are subtropical. Hamamelis has six different species of which the best is Hamamelis mollis.

This handsome shrub can grow up to 3 metres high but is often less than that in gardens. It is highly valued as a winter flowering plant in colder climates even though it will grow quite well in warmer climates.

The golden yellow sweetly fragrant, flowers, which grow in small clusters, are made up of 4 separate narrow strap like petals arising from a maroon coloured base (receptacle) that can withstand frosts up to -20C. When grown from seed there is some variation in colour of the flowers. There are selected cultivars with different yellow coloured flowers or larger petals. It makes a great cut flower in winter.

As a shrub this is a very easy care plant, with its zig zag branchlets, it makes a great sight. The leaves are soft, hairy and are like a hazel nut leaf hence the name. They are evenly spaced along the branch and look very formal. In autumn they will turn a nice yellow. The branchlets have been used for water divining.

The only work that may need to be done occasionally is the removal of an odd branchlet to improve its shape.

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