Which Witch Hazel?

amyjeanMay 7, 2010

I would like to plant a Witch Hazel for FALL FOLIAGE COLOR. I am completely unconcerned about the flowers, and fragrance is only a nice-to-have, not necessary. Primarily: Beautiful autumn foliage, specifically yellow to orange, or even better, a mix of yellow, orange and red. Two that I've come across that seem to fit this bill are: "Aurora" and "Arnold Promise".

It seems to me that there is quite a bit of information on the internet indicating that AP has great fall foliage color, but I live in zone 5, although I think it's a "cold" zone 5. That makes me think that perhaps "Aurora" would be better, as I believe that it is rated down to zone 4. However, I haven't really seen any info. on whether the fall color is good versus really spectacular, like the Arnold Promise foliage seems to be. Is anyone able to help me out here? If you don't have direct experience or knowledge of this, any thoughts on who might have such?

Thank you,


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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

'Autumn Embers'.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 9:51PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

The one mentioned above will definitely give you a mix of colors.

The straight species Hamamelis vernalis has given me very good harvest gold fall color. I planted it just for the fall color. Although interesting, the flowers are only noticable up close...maybe I'd change my mind if I had a mature plant.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 10:57PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

There is a frequent problem with fall color in Z5. In many years a really hard freeze will take place before a plant has reached its peak. I've found this to be true of some fothergillas, parrotia, disanthus, and hamamelis. In addition to your other criteria, early coloring will be important. Rarefind nursery (www.rarefindnursery.com) has a huge selection of witchhazels and would probably be able to advise you about which would be most suitable for color in your climate.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 5:13AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I defintely don't want to argue the point above (because its mostly true) but the Milwaukee area had early record freezing temps last fall.

Some plants cashed out but fothergilla and hamamelis had great fall color. Specifically 'Mt. Airy' and vernalis.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 8:54AM
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Amyjean - Depending on your situation, many of the hybrid witch hazels may get winter damaged for you. I have one, 'Diane', but it sometimes gets winter branch die-back and so is not really any bigger than it was when planted 5 or so years ago. So the hybrid witch hazels may not be the best choice if you want a plant with real impact. My regular H. virginiana, the native witch hazel, does well and is a beautiful clear yellow. My H. vernalis I haven't noticed the fall color - it's not in an area that's fully visible, so I guess I'll have to specifically go to see how it looks this fall. I don't like the branch structure of that quite as much as the H. viriginiana. My Fothergilla 'Mt. Airy' is a gorgeous mix of gold, orange, and red and is fully hardy here and has leaves similar in shape to the witch hazel. The only year it failed to produce good color was its first fall when it was still quite small. Mine are 5 or so years old, but started liner size, so I don't yet have a feel for whether the winter branch structure will be particularly lovely or not.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 10:39AM
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Thanks everyone for the responses.

Bboy: I've looked up Autumn Embers and it looks like a great one for my purposes. If I don't plant it here, I'll definitely plant it at my next place, in which I hope to have a "Witch Hazel" grove.

Whaas: Thanks for the info. My main concern is yellow-gold fall color, although a mix is nice. I'm really trying to get more yellows into the fall scene here, as it seems like everything is cultivated toward the reds when the growers are going for fall color! I'm going to research vernalis more.

Mainegrowers and Whaas: Yes, I think I'm finding out that it takes a really good freeze before the color really gets going. I have noticed that most of my fall color comes so late (Grn. Mtn. Sugar Maple colors just before everything dies for winter!) so I'm trying to balance it to get a really long and beautiful (lots of mixed colors) autumnscape.

Re: Rare Find: I initially called them but received little help -just read to me, out of a catalogue or something, info. that I could find on my own. I was really looking for info. from people who could give me advice from their own experience. Perhaps I just caught the wrong two people at RFN that day.

Nhbabs: You've said some intriguing things. I've always nixed planing Fothergilla as my soil pH is somewhere along the lines of 7.1, but I see azaleas and things growing around here, so perhaps if one plants them with a lot of organic matter and feeds them with some food geared toward acid-prefering plants, it would work. (On that thought, I think WH is an acid prefering tree, so I guess I could try the Fothergilla since I seem to think that WH will work here!)

COULD YOU GIVE ME A LITTLE MORE INFO. ON THE BRANCHING HABIT OF VERNALIS VS. VIRGINIANA? Besides fall color, one of the main things that interest me in the garden with shrubs and trees is form. Also, I noted your thoughts on winter die-back, and I do think now that I may go with virginiana or vernalis, at least in this cold garden.

Thanks again, everyone!


    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 12:33PM
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My vernalis is about 4 years in my garden and was pretty good sized when I bought it. The branches are relatively fine in texture for a witch hazel and are more upright and closer together - just shrubby looking, not a stunning silhouette. My virginianas, and the ones I see along the road, tend to be more open and reach sideways more. I like that type of branch structure better than the more upright and clustered branches of the vernalis. I have to qualify this with the comment that I've seen lots and lots of the virginiana, and they all have the same tendancy. I've only seen my one, unnamed variety of vernalis, so don't know if there are other varieties with better branching or if mine is a product of its environment as much as its genetics.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 12:18AM
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Nhbabs: Thanks for your response re: branching habits. It is quite helpful. I'm leaning toward Virginiana already, and your description only reinforces this! I, too, would like a more sideways-reaching plant. However, I'll be on the lookout for more on the form of varnalis. More plant/tree research!!! (Seems like that's all I do!) Amy

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 11:29AM
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