Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring is getting closer

Here in Boston we’ve had 3 days in a row in the 50’s and more warm weather ahead. Now I am starting to think seriously about spring.  In this area the first plants to bloom are the Witch Hazels.  These have actually been in bloom for awhile and are pretty much at peak now (first week of March).  Especially noticeable are the Asian hybrids like the pure yellow ‘Arnold Promise’ and the copper-hued ‘Jelena’ (Hamamelis x intermedia).  Once I got to know the subtlety sweet fragrance, I can tell that one is nearby before I could spot it.

The Chinese Witch Hazel (H. mollis) is also at full bloom right now. It can be identified by its more linear golden yellow petals. It also has a tendency to hold onto its old leaves, as shown here.

Since I’m a ‘Native Plants’ guy I have to mention our two main native species. Vernal Witch Hazel (H. vernalis) is also blooming at this time. The flower color of this species are variable, ranging from yellow to red. It is originally native to Arkansas and Missouri and usually found in moist soils.  This photo shows a branch with 'everything on it.'  As with the flower color, its tendency to hold leaves is also variable among individuals.

The other ‘native’ is the Common Witch Hazel (H. virginiana). This species is widely distributed in the Eastern US and is normally found in upland woodlands. The bright yellow flowers of this plant open up in the fall, while the leaves are still attached, so it is easy to miss them.

One place to see these plants in the Boston area is at Mount Auburn Cemetery.  You can also see more Mount Auburn photos at the Friends of Mount Auburn Flicker page.

While the origins of plant names can be rather fuzzy, one that stuck in my mind for witch hazel is that it often gets ‘warts’ on its leaves due to a gall formed by the spiny Witch-Hazel gall aphid. The red-tinged galls have long spines that look something like a hairy wart. In most cases these galls do not do serious harm to the plant.


Sheila said...

A beautiful plant that doesn't grow in our area. I can only admire from afar!

Alice Joyce said...

Lovely post. Have never grown witch hazel but always wanted to. Closest I get is a red filbert with cool catkins.
Here, the kerria is blooming like mad and I'm so thankful to bring branches indoors to enjoy.
and happy to find you on Blotanical!
Bay Area Tendrils aka: Alice's Garden Travel Buzz

wiseacre said...

The only Witch Hazel I'm familiar with wears bloomers and chases Bugs Bunny on a broom.

I'm zoned out when it comes to the shrubs so they're not something I get to see around northern NY. I do head south to Long Island after their bloom time so I might have seen them when leafed out but actually never noticed them. Now I want to hunt one down so I can get a photo of the galls.

Big Smile :)
The Boston area can use your help. I 'retired' from the sprinkler business down there in the early 90s. I saw far to many landscapes that at best were uninspiring.

Curtis said...

Thank you for the comments. This is the first year I've really paid attention to this group of plants. They bloom so early that you need to make a point of going out to find them.

In regards to the leaf gall, I had some on my H. virginiana in mid to late summer. The aphid spends part of its life cycle on birches, so you may find more galls where the plants are nearby.

Laurrie said...

Curtis, I love the way the hybrid Arnold Promise looks in your photo, all twisted and elegant and covered with blooms. It's what I'm hoping for with my hybrid Diane.. but I guess I'll have to be patient to see a mass of blooms like that (someday).

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

I like that you include names of the plants in your pictures. Thanks for the informative post!

Karyl said...

I've been looking for H. vernalis for my own garden. Nice to see it mentioned. H. virginiana gets all the native credit!

Anonymous said...

Hi Adam, New to your blog- very informative and not your usual "pretty garden" stuff. Great! I look forward to future posts.
Louise in Central Mass