November Flowers-The Last Hurrah

November flowers–is that a misprint? No it’s not. The little known Common Witch Hazel blooms in, yes, November, and it will continue into December! Not sparsely, either–every branch is covered with the fragrant, yellow, spidery blossoms.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) grows 10-20′ tall in a wide flat-topped vase shape. Its smooth gray-brown crooked branches give it an interesting architectural character. In nature it is found most often on wooded slopes such as clay ravines and on the high dunes next to Lake Michigan. It is also found in woods on level ground. In the home landscape it will grow in either sun or shade.

Plant it at the corners of your house, grow it under shade trees or in a shrubbery border. Or make it a focal point in your garden.

Locate it close to your windows so you can see the blossoms even if its too cold to go outside.

I took a cue from nature (always a good idea) and installed three Witch Hazel on a wooded slope at a client’s property. I added ‘Grow-low’ Sumac and Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle, two low-growing shrubs that spread their roots and branches to hold the soil on a slope.

I also added Illinois Rose, its late scarlet foliage a ravishing contrast to the golden Witch Hazel blossoms.

You can see the design for this hillside garden in my book, Design Your Natural Midwest Garden, which you may purchase from this site or find at your library.

The Witch Hazel at St. Charles Park District has glossy gold leaves in October–what could be better than this?

Well, November is even better, with its showy, bright yellow flower tassels.

“To do your bit well,” is the motto of the witch-hazel. When all of its companions have lost their autumn glory and have settled down for their winter sleep, the witch-hazel, like a golden mist drifting through our woodlands, brings a new beauty each day as its foliage disappears, until all that is left to sing the requiem are its lacy branches with their delicate autumn blossoms.
Jens Jensen

10 Responses to November Flowers-The Last Hurrah

  1. Mary Alice November 23, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    Thank you, Pat!

  2. Tim November 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    I like the open branch form of this plant. It has year-round visual interest. I wish I had the space for it.

  3. Jon J Duerr November 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    Good pictures! My Witch Hazel is not as full flowering this year compared to last. Since I have a mid-November birthday, I have adopted it as my special plant. There are a few very old Witch Hazels in Trout Park. Jon J Duerr

    • PatHill November 23, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

      I have seen those, Jon, but not in bloom. I know just where they are–they’re on a slope with Carex pedunculata at their feet. I’ll have to take a quick trip out there to see them and get a photograph.

  4. Crysta November 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Gorgeous, Pat! It’s so nice seeing a bit of color after all the leaves have fallen and the days are gray and gloomy.

  5. Nancy Weiss November 23, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

    Thank you, Pat, for reminding me about the Witch Hazel. Actually, we have a great one at the Wildflower Sanctuary, and even though I’ve been down there numerous times in the past few weeks (mostly photographing colorful leaves), I’ve gone right by our beloved shrub, never checking the blooms!
    SO . . . tomorrow morning I’ll get on down there to check it out!
    That shrub was given to us years ago by one of our members when she moved. But a couple of years ago, during our awful floods (made worse by our coffer dams during bridge re-construction), the beavers were on higher ground and cut it down! Happily, it has come back quite nicely since then. ~~ Nice Blog, Pat! ~~NW.

  6. Bob Sandidge November 24, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    Pat, every post is more beautiful than the last. Awesome!

  7. June Keibler November 24, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    It’s one of my favorites. Thanks.

  8. Pat Clancy November 25, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Thanks, Pat, for e-mailing me about your blog. It is now bookmarked and I will visit often to view your beautiful photos and read the thoughtful comments.

  9. PatHill November 28, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    From: Essays on Nature by Virginia S. Eifert, 1967
    ..And then suddenly there comes a hint of acid fragrance in the still air, a cold, lemony scent somewhere, anywhere. And there in the woods a bare bush is full of delicate pale yellow flowers. Here is the final flower of the year, defier of cold and frost, a wild flower for Thanksgiving Day, the witch hazel. Not until late autumn and early winter do the small yellow calyces open, from which emerge four thin, narrow, twisted petals an inch long; the gnarly twigs are fringed with them. There also are hard brown seed pods which burst open suddenly after frost, and the little stony black seeds, a pair in each pod, are catapulted many feet away into the woods. But long after the seeds have gone, the yellow flowers of the witch hazel make a glow in the dark November days. Faithful to tradition, they represent a strength to meet the winter. At sight of them, that brooding sense of waiting is changed to a brave certainty of Spring. (November 1943)

    This is from April from my personal e-mail. Beautiful, April. Thanks for sending it.

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