Friday, October 17, 2014


When we built our house on a half-acre wooded lot in Lanesville, Kay and I tried to site it with regard to the understory of witch-hazel shrubs among the trees. They have flourished these thirty years with four-season appeal.

The native witch-hazel, hamamelis virginiana
The dozen or so witch-hazels around us conjure fall color incandescently in the landscape. The one pictured above sports gold margins around its leaves. Shafts of sunlight tease its patterns in and out of prominence.

October flowers
Witch-hazel flowers, modest and balletic, await discovery within the foliage. Their shyness may be the reason that the shrub remains almost unknown in the nursery and landscape trades. You have to seek the acquaintance. You will smile at the garlands of little Sarah Bernhardts throwing petals over-shoulder in all directions, out-waiting every other woodland flower to have the blooming stage to themselves.
Winter filigree
Arching stems and zigzag branchlets make the shrub picturesque even out-of-leaf. A glazing snow emphasizes its tracery. The pendulous weight of winter broadens its umbrella shape gracefully.
Spring leaves budding
When the weather warms again witch-hazel leaves break dormancy in emergent pairs among the residues of last year's fruit and flowers.
Summer production
By midsummer, when this year's leaves and fruit have fully expanded, new flower buds are developing. At this point squirrels become steady visitors. They never find all the nuts.
Fall again.
  By mid-October horizontal planes of witch-hazel are lighting up glades within the trees, especially in woodland margins alongside our lawn and driveway. Thanksgiving is in the air.

Witch-hazel has not yet returned to Halibut Point within the State Park boundaries,  following epochs of agricultural and industrial clearing. But it exists on at least one adjacent property. Squirrels may hasten the restoration as woods recover their realm.


  1. Martin it would be wonderful to walk Ravenwood with you and Kay this Fall.