Strawberry Social 2018
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Douglas Justice - Cherry Trees and Blooms
Wednesday March 4th, 2020 - 7.00 p.m.
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Fifteen km. north of Antwerp, Belgium is Kalmthout Arboretum, a lovely Botanic Garden and former home to the de Belder brothers George and Robert and Robert’s wife Jelena an agriculturist from Yugoslavia.  They added to some of 150 year old trees planted there with their new cultivars of Hamamelis. Jelena particularly developed many of the popular cultivars known today.

While we have discussed Hamamelis before, at this time of year the question comes up “Why doesn’t my garden have one?” They are a delight with their sweet, spicy scent wafting elusively on the wind during dull January and February days. Planted close to the house the flowers and smell can captivate and invigorate at the beginning of the New Year.
Worldwide there are 5 species of Hamamelis. There are three in North America, H. ovalis, H. virginiana and H. vernalis, one specie from Japan -H.japonica  and one in China-H. mollis.
From the Hamamelidaceae family they are small deciduous trees or large shrubs and enjoy a woodland setting in full sun to partial shade. Good companion plants to put at their base are Cyclamen hederifolium, C. coum, snowdrops, hellebores and hostas. The leaves are dark green, oval with smooth or wavy margins alternately arranged on the branch. The unusual flowers are made up of four thin curly petals that look like spiders clustered on the branch. Flower colours can range from pale to acid yellow, burnt orange or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule with five glossy black seeds in each part which mature in the fall. The leaves turn colour in the fall and generally the redder the flower colour the redder the fall foliage.

The common name is “Witch Hazel”. Witch is not as we know it but from the olde English "wice" meaning bendable and the branches can be used in water divining. The leaves and bark are used to produce an astringent and anti-oxidant used in commercial health care products. This is used topically for sores, bruises, swelling, acne, insect bites, poison ivy, varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Some names to look for are H. pallida with delicate yellow flowers and some say with the best scent, H. ‘Jelena’ with burnt orange flowers, H.’Diane’ with red flowers, H.'Arnold Promise’ and the old H. ‘Ruby Glow’ produced before 1896. It is best to purchase your plant in bloom to have the colour and scent that suits you.
A special winter treat for the house is vase with a few branches of witch hazel to delight the senses.

Wendie Kottmeier