Sweet Reward of Early Springtime: Hamamelis vernalis, Ozark Witch Hazel

Hamamelis vernalis, Ozark witch hazel in bloom, Michaela Harlow, thegardenerseden.com The Sweet Scent of Ozark Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), Fills the Air

Out pruning and raking in the garden —lingering late in the garden on these long, warm days— the delightful scent of North American native, Ozark Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), fills the air. When warm weather arrives early in Vermont —as it has this year— the bloom of Ozark Witch Hazel sometimes coincides with, or even precedes the spring equinox. Flowering nearly a month before most other shrubs, the tiny, golden tassels dangle in late afternoon sun, heady with with honeysuckle-like sweetness. Such a rich reward for getting a jump on my springtime chores.

 Fragrant, Gold Droplets in Late-Day Sunshine

Many of my favorite garden plants have two stellar seasons: spring and fall. And among my favorites, the family of Hamamelidaceae (the witch hazels) ranks very high indeed. Hamamelis vernalis —commonly called Ozark or Spring Witch Hazel— is native to the south-central regions of the United States and is hardy in USDA zones 4-8. This is a tough, colonizing shrub; tolerant of poor, scrappy soil and a wide range of moisture levels. Vernal witch hazel is a great native plant for informal hedging, naturalizing along a woodland boundary or even for something as mundane as stabilizing a steep bank. Although her flowers aren’t nearly as large and showy as those of her more flamboyant Asian and hybrid cousins (read my post on Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ here), the perfume of her early, coppery-orange blossoms is so sweet and delightful that the petite size is easy to overlook. She’s also a glorious sight in autumn, when her softly mounded form turns brilliant gold; shimmering against the blue autumn sky.

Hello again, my bewitching, springtime friend!

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