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Garden Design

Arnold keeps its promise

Maria von Brincken

Maria von Brincken

February 22, 2012

Away over President’s Day holiday weekend, I returned to find the Witch Hazel ‘Arnold’s Promise’ in full bloom! This wonderful Hamamelis leads the way to spring’s bounty. Depending on the winter, it blooms from anywhere from late January or early February to April. In last year’s record-setting cold and deep snow cover winter, it bloomed in April in my garden – a few branches above the snow had flowers.

Some people think it’s an early blooming Forsythia because it’s a yellow mass in the landscape. But the Witch Hazel form is upright and a vase-like. Multi-stemmed, I prune out the suckers to form a small tree in my landscape. It will grow to 12ft in 10-15 years and 20ft to mature height. Pruning it as tree allows me to grow perennials underneath. When your garden space is limited, this technique allows a fuller planting for four season abundance. Notice the pale green budding hellebore in the photo’s left corner next to the variegated broad-leaf evergreen mound. Yes, that’s a Rhododendron bud in the right corner. Spring bulbs pop up beneath it before the daylilies and ladies mantle appear.

It’s flower petals, four yellow ribbons, unfurl on warm days only to close tightly with the cold. They repeat this response to warm and cold for 6-8 weeks. A lemony fragrance that I don’t seem to smell is a bonus to those that can. I enjoy the flower bud that form on the branches in the fall all winter long.

The summer leaves are rounded and textured and fall color adds to its charm in the garden. That’s another reason that I plant it where I can see it coming and going all year long. In the designs I create for my clients, sometimes I use it singularly or in groups to echo nature’s plant communities. However it’s used, in full sun or part shade, Arnold keeps its promise to bloom first in spring!

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