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As a winter flowering subject they are best planted where they can be easily viewed from indoors. When inspecting the plants more closely in the garden, it pays to plant them near to a path or at the front of a border. This will avoid trampling across a bed to smell the flowers, damaging the soil structure, particularly when wet, as it often is during the winter.
Traditionally they have always been planted in a woodland type garden with dappled shade. They will however grow quite happily in the open and flowering is more profuse in this situation.
Avoid frost pockets if at all possible as Witch Hazels are susceptible to damage by late spring frosts, particularly young plants
SOILS AND PLANTING
Witch Hazels will grow in all soil types successfully except shallow soils overlying chalk or limestone. The soil must be well drained however, any water logging during winter will lead to root death and eventual death of the plant. More plants are lost for this than any other cause. Good soil preparation is therefore vital, on heavy clay soils ‘mound planting’ is the best procedure to adopt. It is important not to plant too deeply as Witch Hazels are surface rooting. Dig a hole to the depth of the container and three to four times wider, break up the soil in the base of the hole, place the plant and fill the soil in and firm with the boot. Do not plant in wet soil, firming will damage structure and do not incorporate organic matter, the roots need to search out into the soil. Organic matter and feed can be applied later to the surface of the soil.
During the first couple of seasons after planting it is important to water during dry spells in the summer. Symptoms of water stress will be marginal leaf scorch, Hamamelis mollis and it’s cultivars are the first to suffer. Mulching the plants with good garden compost or leaves will help to reduce moisture loss from the soil surface. Do not place the mulch right up to the stem of the plant, mice love to winter under the mulch and can gnaw the bark and kill a plant. It goes without saying that weeds must be kept down, competing for moisture and nutrients, as they do. They will benefit from a light feed each spring, use a fertiliser which contains all the essential nutrients.
Young plants are susceptible to late spring frost damage, so if container grown delay planting until the fear of frost has passed. The following couple of springs it pays to have some fleece available to cover the plants on frosty spring nights. Larger plants can of course be damaged but will come back rapidly, whereas small plants, which have not established a good root system may not.
Witch Hazels are propagated by grafting onto seed raised rootstocks of the American Witch Hazel. Consequently suckers can arise from below the graft union. These should be removed as close as possible to the point from which they arise and not allowed to develop as they can take the plant over.
Contrary to popular opinion they can be pruned to contain their size, after flowering cut the previous years growth back to, two buds. This procedure can be carried out annually from when the plants are well established after planting, in most cases two to three years after planting.
Pests and diseases are not a significant problem, mice, rabbits and deer need to be kept away and drainage needs to be good as root rotting diseases can lead to death of the plant.
WITCH HAZEL NURSERY, CALLAWAYS
LANE, NEWINGTON, SITTINGBOURNE, KENT ME9 7LU