Saturday, February 28, 2009

In Bloom This Week

This is Hamamelis (vernalis I think), a kind of witchhazel appropriately called vernal or winter witchhazel. The genus Hamamelis belongs to the family Hamamelidaceae, a small group of flowering shrubs found in eastern North America and eastern Asia. I really like the shot above but the shot below is a little more true to the flower color.
Witchhazels typically grow to 6' to 8' tall and 8'-10'+ wide by their maturity. A dense rounded shrub their big leaves provide a nice medium texture to the landscape in summer and gift us with these spidery flowers in fall and winter depending on the species and/or cultivar. The flowers do have that wonderfully unique fragrance but you often have to get right up to the shrub to really get the full scent. As far as the native species, Hamamelis virginiana is the common species and blooms late fall, whereas this vernal species blooms about now, Febraury into March. The flowers are not the most long-lived, or perhaps you miss them because they are hidden under the dried leaves refusing to fall to the ground, but they are still a pleasant reminder that spring is in fact on it's way. The Asian species, Hamamelis mollis, Hamamelis japonica and their various crosses and cultivars I have seen do fine in full sun but I always thought the native species did better with a little woodland shade. For the most part I find these to be amazing durable shrubs, pretty disease and pest resistant, and hardy in USDA Zones 4-8.

Snowdrops are botanically known as Galanthus, a Eurasian genus of bulbs in the Amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae. The name comes from the Greek gala (milk) and anthos (flower) referring to the 6" tall pendulous white flowers.
Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdop, is a European species hardy in Zones 4-9. Like most spring bulbs they like a humus rich soil with good drainage, and they naturalize pretty easily in the landscape. The flat, blue-green leaves emerge first, only to 4" or less, and the flowers follow. When they get hit with a little shot of sun through the dappled shade the outer petals flare out and expose the inner petals. Around here there are usually two species of Galanthus that you find planted, Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus elwesii. The way to tell them apart is that nivalis has just the one green marking at the end of the inner petals while elwesii has a second, larger green dot as well.

Flora, A Gardener's Encyclopedia (Timber Press, 2003)

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses by Michael A. Dirr (Stipes Publishing, Fifth Edition)

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