The cover story for the November/December issue of Northern Gardener is about witch hazel, a little-planted but lovely shrub. As author Betsy Danielson notes, “Witch hazels could be the poster plants for the underappreciated.”
It’s unfortunate because witch hazels have plenty to offer. Their flowers bloom on the edge of the season — early in spring and very late in fall. The colors range from pale yellow to red. The plants have an interesting form and striking foliage too. While not all witch hazel varieties are hardy to our area, many are. Common witch hazel (H. virginiana) and spring witch hazel (H. vernalis) are native to the United States. One of the prettiest hardy varieties to our area is the common witch hazel ‘Harvest Moon’, which is hardy to USDA Zone 3. Among the spring witch hazels, ‘Autumn Embers’ is hardy to zone 4 and offers bright orange flowers.
Because witch hazels are not super common, they are difficult to find in the nursery trade. We asked Betsy for some advice on where to find them and she suggested Out Back Nursery in Hastings, which lists common witch hazel among its offerings. You can also find it via mail order at Forest Farm in Oregon, which lists many of different species (check for hardiness), Fedco, Maine offers common witch hazel (fedcoseeds.com) and White Flower Farm, Connecticut, which carries H. virginiana ‘Harvest Moon’.
Have you ever grown witch hazel? What do you think of it?