Spotlight On: Witch Hazel, More Than Just A Sunburn Remedy!

By January 24, 2020 Plant Spotlight
Spotlight On: Witch Hazel, More Than Just A Sunburn Remedy!

Ah, winter! That season of white wonderlands and… well, white. If you’re tired of looking at a bland landscape, you’re not alone. Some surveys have found that as few as 7% of the American population actually prefers winter. And while winter may never be your favorite season, we bet that it doesn’t have to be quite as gloomy, either.

A great way to start reimagining your winter experience is by designing a landscape that adds color, texture, motion and warmth all year long, and winter in particular. If you scoff at the idea of winter color beyond an evergreen or two, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise!

There are plenty of plants, shrubs, and even vegetables and flowers that not only survive the cold weather, but thrive in it. And yes, that includes the doldrums between January and March. We’ve covered a few of our favorites before – the Red Twig Dogwood, with its brilliant crimson stems; Maiden Grass, with its wispy fronds; and Miscanthus, a towering beauty that adds a splash of subtle color and a whole lot of visual interest.

Today we’re sharing another winter winner, and this one is unique in many ways. From its color, to its shape and its growing season, if you think you’re doomed to wistfully waiting until your tulips bloom again, this lovely garden addition will show you otherwise. It’s Witch Hazel, and it’s not just for face creams! It’s a homeowner’s winter friend.

witch hazel winter bloomThe Witch Hazel Difference

You may be more familiar with it as a skin treatment for rashes or burns, as a makeup remover, skin toner, or moisturizer (among many more home remedies!), but it is, in fact, a shrub or small tree with some of the most spectacular winter foliage you can enjoy here in New Jersey.

One of the most unique aspects of Witch Hazel is that it’s the only tree in North America that has flowers, next year’s buds, and ripe fruit on its branches all at once.

It’s one of the earliest bloomers, too, with its bright yellow, red, or coppery orange flowers (depending on the variety) emerging as early as February and lasting straight through to March. And it won’t disappoint throughout the rest of the year, either. Its green leaves persist from spring through fall, and you’ll enjoy some bright fall colors that will vary by variety as well.

Jelena, one of our favorite varieties, is perfect for our local New Jersey climate and will treat you to a wintertime of the most unique flowers you’ll see. It can grow up to 12 feet, with bright green leaves throughout summer that will turn orange in fall. But its best season is winter, when you’ll enjoy dense clusters of yellow-gold flowers with long, ribbony petals. Truly a sight to behold.

witch hazel autumn leavesCare & Maintenance

If its beauty weren’t enough, you’d love this plant simply for how easy it is to care for. Once established, it’s essentially maintenance-free, and is resistant to pests and diseases. It’s also fairly deer-resistant and doesn’t mind a little nibbling, so if hungry critters are around, it can withstand a bit of grazing.

Witch Hazel grows best in full sun with regular water, and is tolerant of either acidic or alkaline soil. It can also do well in partial shade but more sun means a more stunning winter display. Use a dense layer of mulch (about three inches) around the roots to conserve moisture through summer, and heat through winter.

Prune it only as much as needed to keep it at a pleasing size and shape. Pruning should only be done in spring after this garden gem has flowered.

Otherwise, you can simply sit back and enjoy the seasonal pleasures and the warm fragrance that this plant brings.

witch hazel flowersWhy We Love It

It’s not hard to love Witch Hazel! It’s easy to grow, which makes it great for beginner gardeners, or anyone looking for a plant that will reward you with its color and aromatic scent almost immediately. Many people enjoy planting it near a front door or window so that they can enjoy its color from the warmth of their homes, and take in its scent as they walk in and out each day.

For winter color, you just can’t beat Witch Hazel and its many varieties. This unassuming shrub will blend beautifully into any garden, providing a green, leafy backdrop until winter, when it bursts into bloom in contrast to the rest of the dormant landscape.

It’s also incredibly versatile, making an excellent border, privacy screen or focal point. It’s useful for erosion control, and works well in just about any suitable soil, whether a small or large yard, urban or rural landscape, or anywhere in between.

And of course, if you’re the DIY type, you’ll love being able to brew up your own creams, ointments and tonics!

If you’d like to know more about this charming and unique winter bloomer, or if you’re sold and want to design a landscape immediately with this beauty as part of it, contact us for a consultation and let us know. Our landscape pros are available to answer questions and work with you to design the landscape of your dreams.