I don’t believe in love at first sight. However, there’s new research from the Netherlands that offers evidence of the “love at first sight” phenomenon.
The study (Zsok, Haucke, DeWest, and Barelds, 2019) shows that you can feel love at first sight if the people are beautiful and your experience is a “strong pull or attraction.” So, you ask, “What does this have to do with witch hazels?”
I’ve been a Green Spring Extension Master Gardener for a few years and have watched witch hazels grow at Green Springs Gardens in all seasons. They bring color by blooming in the winter garden and serve as a placeholder in the summer.
An early morning January passage into Green Spring along Witch Hazel Drive after a steady snowfall is a winter wonderland. Bushes and trees and witch hazel flowers on each side of the road, covered in snow that’s flecked with color. They enchant with mustard yellow, golden shades that sparkle in sunshine. There’s love at first sight and a strong pull from the beautiful witch hazel named ‘Frederic’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Frederic’) —one of more than 150 witch hazels that line and ornament the road.
Witch hazels, introduced to the west in 1879 by botanist Charles Maries at the Veitch Nurseries, one of Europe’s largest nurseries, are easy-to-grow deciduous shrubs or small trees. They are maintenance-free and resistant to pests, disease and deer. Most varieties reach 10-20 feet high and wide, and they can be pruned after blooming to keep them small. Witch hazels are one of the few trees that can bear fruit, leaves and flowers simultaneously. They thrive in woodland areas in soils that are moist, well-drained and lightly acid. They like rich organic matter and grow in full sun.
Green Spring is home to a national witch hazel collection. In 2006, the collection was recognized by the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC). The NAPCC encourages public gardens to adopt collections of specific genera, maintain them, and make them available to the public, researchers and other public gardens. The NAPCC has strict requirements for collection eligibility that includes the number and variety of species in each collection. The purpose of this national effort is to establish collections for conservation, education and research. Green Spring’s collection has more than 200 witch hazels in 110 taxa, including native, Asian and hybrid species. The logo for Green Spring is a stylized illustration of the witch hazel flower and leaf.
Some people have believed that witch hazel leaves and bark made into a tea could heighten occult powers. Others have used it for medicinal reasons, although there’s insufficient evidence that it works in many of those situations. History research reveals Mohicans showing English settlers how to use Y-shaped witch hazel sticks for dowsing, an ancient method for locating underground water.
Witch hazel shrubs are worth exploring at Green Spring and in your own garden. Maybe you’ll fall in love at first sight.
More about Green Spring’s witch hazels:
- Green Spring’s Witch Hazel Web Page
- Blog: Witch Hazel Season at Green Spring
- Blog: A Whiff of Winter Witch Hazel
Author Gioia Caiola Forman is a Green Spring Extension Master Gardener and a board member of the Friends of Green Spring.
Photos and collection information courtesy of Brenda Skarpol, Green Spring’s Curatorial Horticulturist. Green Spring Extension Master Gardeners Karen Aftergut and Kay Cooper contributed to the article’s research.
For more information on the Green Spring Extension Master Gardener program, contact Pamela.Smith2@fairfaxcounty.gov or call 703-228-6414.