The air was filled with the light, sweet and heady scent that is Hamamelis long, long, before the came into view.
First discovered on an appropriately named Hamamelis weekend at the Hillier Arboretum in Braishfield, near Romsey (and worth a visit if you are ever in the area) these bewitching plants totally stole my heart in a way no other plant has ever managed, although Ginkgo blob has come pretty close..
For many years I was put off growing them in my own garden, partly by their cost, but also their reputation to need light, sandy, acidic soils; and to be very slow growing.
I should not have worried, the three I have purchased are growing well in the rich, loamy soil I enjoy in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
The flower buds, which are a dull brown colour, with a touch of stubble or rust on them encase and protect the flowers until they wriggle themselves free just after Christmas when a lift of spirits is needed.
A great, decadent and indulgent joy is to cut a branch off, and bring it indoors as an early Christmas present to yourself and watch and savour the moments when the flowers slowly, tentatively emerge into the world on the otherwise dead winter twigs.
The best Christmas Present ever.
While cultivars such as ‘Jelena’ with its brick red flowers are popular amongst many, the new cultivars are more free flowering and perhaps slightly less picky. However for scent alone Hamamelis mollis is hard to beat, even if the flowers lack the magic and sparkle of the new hybrids, many of which are the result of a cross between H mollis and H japonica.
The very best garden position for a Hamamelis is where it can catch, or be backlit by the sun.
Get the position right, get the right moment of the day right, and the flowers become illuminated with liquid sunlight and simply glow.
There can be no better sight in the winter garden.
Favourite new Hamamelis are:
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Aphrodite’
Stunningly beautiful, with creased and crumpled flowers which add to the character, this is a very free flowering sweetly scented cultivar, with dark green laves and the added advantage of some fiery autumn colour.
What do you think?
Whilst Aphrodite has the most wonderful glowing flower colour, we have also fallen totally, madly, deeply for Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Robert’ which is possibly named after Robert and Jelena de Belder at Kalmthout in Belgium. Oh my goodness, where do I start Robert has flowers that are so crumpled and like a coppery sunset, with maroon calyces to add an accent of colour.
The final of our trio of Hamamelis is Hamamelis mollis ‘Jermyn’s Gold’ which is named after Jermyn’s House, the home of the late Harold Hillier and now a rather charming Tea Room in the centre of the Hillier Arboretum. Jermyn’s Gold has a good scent and the brighter, must lemon yellow flowers, born in profusion along the stems.
Whilst many gardening books recommend a shady spot, they do need to sun on the wood to ripen it and to initiate the flower buds in the summer, and so tend not to produce so many flowers in the shade.
The only decision is witch one to go for…
The only answer is all three.