The Sorceress of Springtime: Spellbinding Witch Hazel ‘Diane’…

Hamamelis x intermedia, ‘Diane’ blooms mid March in my garden. Photograph © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Today’s grey clouds ushered in the first spring rain, and with it, the slightest breeze from the south. It’s still quite chilly, but every morning I am drawn outside by the promise of chartreuse-green bulb-tips, glowing as they break ground. Distracted by emerging snowdrops as I meandered down the walkway, suddenly I stopped; halted in my tracks by the sweetly scented air. Springtime’s sorceress, witch hazel ‘Diane’, beckoned from the edge of the path. Like magic, I was drawn in, enchanted by her fragrance. Up close, hundreds of ruby to copper hued blossoms explode like tiny fireworks in the dim light. This crafty witch is a relatively new addition to my garden, and she is a real show-stopper; lighting up the dull, barren landscape.

When it comes to performance-art in the garden, ‘Diane’ is proving to be a true A-lister. Fragrance; color; elegant form: what more could you possibly ask for in a first act? But there’s so much more. This spectacular, sensory display is only half of her magic-show. Later in the year, ‘Diane’ takes the stage again, pulling out her fine autumn cloak and dazzling late into the season with brilliant, technicolor foliage. I am giving her a five star review, and if you love early reds and sweet, honey-scented fragrance as much as I do, then I know you will fall in love with her too.

Hamamelis x intermedia, ‘Diane’, (hardy from USDA zone 5a-9b), has proven herself here at the northern edge of her hardiness range, (USDA zone 4/5 with a wicked, windy exposure). A large shrub or small tree 8-12′ high with a similar spread, this early blooming witch hazel prefers moist, acidic soil and moderate sun to light shade. ‘Diane’ responds well to artful pruning and combines well with other woody plants and perennials. She is a knock-out with spring ephemerals such as winter aconite, (Eranthis hyemalis), early blooming narcissus, and snowdrops, (Galanthus). Brilliant late season pairings might include blue asters, violet-hued monkshood, (Aconitum), and chocolatey-colored Joe-Pye weed, (Eupatorium). Or perhaps you might match her up with autumn fern ‘Brilliance’, (Dyopteris erythrosora), and in a wild-garden, the hayscented fern, (Dennstaedtia punctilobulua), forms a beautiful golden carpet at her feet after the first frost.

Welcome sweet witches of springtime…

Hamamelis x intermedia, ‘Diane’ in March. Photograph © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’, autumn color varies from mixed orange hues..

to brilliant scarlet, on the same plant, (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’) Photographs © 2009, Michaela at TGE


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11 Replies to “The Sorceress of Springtime: Spellbinding Witch Hazel ‘Diane’…”

  1. Laurrie

    Michaela, you have me weeping… for my poor non-fragrant skimpy witch hazel ‘Diane’. Yours – so beautiful! I did a post about my disappointing results:

    My hamamelis is in the poorly drained site I mentioned for a possible willow. Diane likes moist, but could too little drainage be causing blooms to be so sparse and so very very tiny, hardly visible? Does fragrance come with maturity? Specimens I saw at Broken Arrow nursery last weekend were like yours: spectacular, sweet, even at young ages. I’m definitely moving my Diane to a drier spot soon.

  2. Michaela

    Hi Laurie, I would definitely move your witch hazel. Hamamelis x intermedia likes moist, acidic soil… but not standing water or poor drainage. Think more along the lines of woodsy soil. I bumped my organic content up with oak-leaf/well rotted manure compost. I also planted her at rise of a slightly sloping ledge. Have you checked your soil’s acidity? Slightly acid is good… much like Kalmia latifolia, (Mountain laurel). A nice layer of natural mulch, (perhaps ground leaves or a pine needle combo), will help too. How sad to hear that ‘Diane’ is suffering. I bet she will appreciate a move! Good luck. Please let me know how she responds to the transplant.

  3. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Hi Michaela,
    I was just wondering… Are there male and female versions of Witch Hazel? I have a Curly Hazel, sorry don’t know the formal name, which has dangling tassels very similar to those on my birch trees. Although it is a very interesting shrub, I was wondering, if I got short-changed (just a tiny bit) by not getting a female?

  4. Michaela

    Hi Deb, Are you certain you have a witch hazel, or is your specimen perhaps curly willow? Your description of tassels makes me think you have a curly or corkscrew willow, (Salix matsudana ‘tortuosa’.

  5. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Hi Michaela,
    I do have a Curly Willow. But, it turns out, the plant I was wondering about is called Corylus Avellana “Contorta”, Corkscrew Hazel and if I want flowers on it I’ll need to let some of the “water shoots” from the root stock grow to get them. (Which would probably be the end of my curly hazel.) Maybe I should try to root up one of the Curly Hazel shoots to see what would happen… What the heck, I think I’ll do cuttings of both. It’s certainly the right time of year to give it a shot, right?

  6. Michaela

    I love it. This is what I call Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick! ( One of the wonderful, but confusing cases of misleading common vs. latin plant names. This is similar to the confusion with common ‘geranium’, (pelargonium), vs. true geranium, ( ‘cranesbill’ ). This plant isn’t a witch hazel, (hamamelis), but a different kind of plant altogether, (Corylus), more closely related to hornbeam or birch. It is in the filbert nut family. If your plant is grafted on species rootstock, then yes, I agree that you do not want to ruin your specimen by allowing suckers to grow… but why not try to root some when you cut them ? I am all for fun science experiments, and yes, it’s the perfect time to try rooting any softwood cuttings. :) Have fun. xo Michaela

  7. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Hi there, me again, I’ve been doing more reading and I definitely have a male, so no fruit or flowers only catkins, but he definitely makes up for it, come winter!

    This shrub is also called “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick”. I found this article when researching the origin of it’s common name.

    I’m still going to see what happens when I start one of the off shoots…. if the bunnies’ have left me any intact, that is.

  8. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Sorry, I should have looked for your reply first before submitting mine.
    The other common name, Contorted Filbert, is obviously closer to the root (ha,ha) of the matter.

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