There are creams and purples, brilliant yellow, bold red, and bright copper. They are the witch hazels of winter, and they are in bloom into March at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria.
Witch hazels are deciduous shrubs, often winter bloomers, that bring showy, spider-shaped flowers to months often viewed as pale in nature compared to other seasons. Some add a pleasing, spicy scent of allspice and honey.
They’re easy to grow, and they do well in a variety of soil and light conditions. They have no serious disease or insect problems, and if you’re looking to add something to your native garden, the hardiest among them is the common, fall-blooming witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana.
Green Spring Gardens has more than 200 specimens of native, Asian and hybrid witch hazels. They comprise a nationally-recognized collection that has been developed as an accredited collection in partnership with the Plant Collections Network (PCN), a program run by the American Public Gardens Association. PCN is a network of botanical gardens and arboreta that coordinate preservation of germplasm, the living tissue from which a plant can grow, i.e. seed or a plant part. Member gardens make germplasm available for studies, evaluation, breeding and research. Green Spring Gardens has one of three national collections of witch hazels.
It’s an appropriate group of plants (genus) for Green Spring, because early American botanist Reverend John Banister discovered the common witch hazel in Virginia. He’d arrived in the Americas in 1678, and as a student of nature he sent to England hundreds of drawings and descriptions as well as seeds.
Visit Green Spring’s web page at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/witch-hazel.htm to see a slideshow of witch hazels in bloom, then head to the park to see them in person. They are reliable and often pretty winter bloomers. You’ll see some as you drive into the park. Ask at the front desk of the horticulture center for more information about their locations and what’s in bloom.
More than 200 witch hazels beckon you to visit Green Spring Gardens during their peak bloom season, January through March. Green Spring is at 4603 Green Spring Road in Annandale.