Hamamelis and Hummers–5 Things

Hummingbirds and Witch-hazel.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

I don’t know how this escaped my notice all these years, but it appears that the hummingbirds LOVE Witch-hazel–Hamamelis. The boys and girls were out there this morning drinking to their hearts’ content.

I scoured Google images for one of a Hummingbird enjoying the nectar of the Hamamelis, without success. And try as I might, I couldn’t get one myself.

So I’m afraid you’ll have to take my word for it–and the word of multitudes of garden writers like Ciscoe Morris in Seattle.

And here are a few other items of interest about the lovely Hamamelis species:

  1. The most commonly noted virtue of the witch-hazel is its fragrance. And indeed, if you’ve smelled ‘Arnold Promise’ or ‘Pallida’, you’d have to agree. But before you buy that ‘Diane’ (above) or ‘Jelena’ you’ll have to choose either colourful flowers or fragrance. ‘Diane’ reputedly has “subtle fragrance”, but it’s too subtle for my nose.  ‘Jelena’ has no fragrance.
  2. The shape of the Hamamelis is also delightful: some like ‘Diane’ and ‘Arnold Promise’ are vase shaped, others much rounder.

    Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’. This pic is from 2015 when I still had a tiny front lawn. (Chafer beetle- and raccoon-assaulted as you can just see on the right upper corner.)

  3. Hamamelis, according to Cass Turnbull from Plant Amnesty ( highly recommend her pruning videos) is an “untouchable”. You will quickly destroy that desirable branch structure if you are a little too aggressive pruning her. Hamamelis easily suckers, which means you could have a shrubby messy hedge instead of a tree before long. The suckers must be removed and the earlier the better. If they’re only a couple inches tall when you notice them, removing them won’t do the tree any harm at all. On the other hand, if you’ve planted it a bit too close to the walkway or drive, and feel the need to remove some branches for convenience sake, you may end up with not only more suckers, but watersprouts as well. That’s shoots/branches that appear from some random spot on other branches or the trunk, and most often with a different appearance from the rest of the tree. Avoiding watersprouts is a good think. So plant your Hamamelis where it will have room to grow to its full natural size, only ever cut branches when you really have to, and cut whole branches, don’t “heading-cut”.
  4. Fall colour: hard to beat. Nuff said.
  5. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ from Oct 2017.

    Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ from Oct 2017. This isn’t even late day sun; apparently it’s 10:24 am.

Mid-Winter Blooms

On the infrequent dry winter days here on the Wet Coast, I have to go outside to see what’s new in the garden. When you’re planning your garden makeover, be sure to include winter-interest items.

Witchhazel--Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'--

Witchhazel–Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’.

Lenten Rose--Helleborus niger 'HCG Jacob Classic'

Lenten Rose–Helleborus niger ‘HCG Jacob Classic’

I've made an exhaustive but unsuccessful search for the name of this Hellebore. Alas.

I’ve made an exhaustive but unsuccessful search for the name of this Hellebore. Alas.

'Julia Child' Rose. This bud has been happily sitting here through two frosts, almost unending rain, and at least two months,

‘Julia Child’ Rose. This bud has been happily sitting here for well over two months, through two good frosts, and almost unending rain.

Sarcococca humilis. This insignificant flower has absolutely WOW fragrance, right by the front door.

Sarcococca humilis. This insignificant flower has absolutely WOW fragrance, right by the front door.

Viburnum tinus 'Spring Bouquet'. Can't beat it for all winter buds and blooms.

Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’. Can’t beat it for all-winter-long buds and blooms.

Rhubarb. Not exactly a bloom, but more colourful than anything else in the garden right now.

Rhubarb. Not exactly a bloom, but more colourful than anything else in the garden right now.


Winter Interest, Part 2

Winter interest part 2

I mentioned in the previous post that ways to create winter interest in our garden is to “think of the aspects to the garden that you like through the rest of the year, and then find winter tolerant providers– texture, colour, movement, smell”.

So a quick note on “movement”.

Wind causing movement of feathery plants:

Stipa tenuissima. Photo credit.

Stipa tenuissima. Photo credit.

Feathery grasses that "flow" in the breeze.

Feathery grasses that “flow” in the breeze. This Miscanthus will be brown now in January (picture was taken in July), but that just means you get not only the visual interest but also auditory interest–the crunchy/crackly sound of the dry grass blades.

Water flowing from fountain or stream:


This garden will have movement from the water  as well as the Pennisetum (Fountain Grass), altho’ it’ll be brown now in January, will still be “blowin’ in the wind”.


Thanks to Outdoor Makeover for the picture

Thanks to Outdoor Makeover for the picture

Here in coastal BC, we don’t often have to worry about freezing temperatures when it comes to water. But if you do, you may not have the luxury of letting your fountains continue fountaining through the winter. Check your night-time temperatures, and if it’s going to be below 0° C, just keeping it running through the night might be enough to keep it liquid. Unless it’s well below 0°.

Birds of course create an delightful amount of movement, and even more so if you provide “some of their favourite things”–food and water.

House finches

House finches and a junco at the bottom.

This feeder is filled with mostly black sunflower seed top and middle, and then Nyjer in the bottom section. (I was disappointed to learn that most Nyjer seed is imported from Africa or India. So much for 100-mile diet!) Enlarge the following clip to get  better view of the house finches “eating and spitting”. 

Chickadee having a little drink.

Chickadee having a little drink.

Besides keeping the feeder filled, I like to leave faded flower stems in the garden in the fall instead of doing a fall clean-up, so the birds can enjoy the seeds.

Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy'

Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’–lots of seeds.

Rudbeckia hirta seed heads

Rudbeckia hirta seed heads. You’re right, this isn’t beautiful, but still provides joy when you see the birds pecking away at them.

Crocosmia seed heads. These are a big seed and I don't see much bird action around them. I wonder if I collected some and actually put them in the feeder?...

Crocosmia seed heads. These are a big seed and I don’t see much bird action around them. I wonder if I collected some and actually put them in the feeder?…

Stay tuned for the next post on “Water in the Landscape”.

The Winter Garden

This post is all about appreciating the winter garden. I read an interesting article today on one of my favourite blogs, Garden Rant, entitled “The Myth of Winter Interest“. Now, far be in from me to dispute anything written by the esteemed Ranter Elizabeth Licata, so I’ll just express here a different perspective.

I LOVE to watch my garden grow. Pretty soon, I’ll be posting new pics of Spring shoots and the various things I’ll do to ready the garden for this new growth. But in the meantime, there is lots to see and do in the winter. Admittedly, here in coastal BC our climate is such that getting close to the subjects in question is usually pretty easy. Our two “Arctic outflow” spells were short-lived and sunny, leaving us little if any snow, and temperatures hardly cold enough to qualify as “cold” according to most of the country.

Get Out Your Camera

I suggest that the one of the best ways to really appreciate your winter garden is with a camera. With a camera, you can walk around looking for things to photograph. That means you’ll begin to see thing you didn’t know were there. Like this: (from last Spring, a surprise asparagus I’d grown from seed but thought had died.)

Asparagus that I grew from seed in

Asparagus that I grew from seed


Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata’–you can just see the stems of the fronds radiating out the sides, this is the crown with new growth ready to burst.

Or the crown of this Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata–Crested wood fern; looks more like some Amazonian spider!

With a camera, you don’t even have to go outside to see fun things:

With a camera you’ll find yourself looking with fresh eyes–almost barren spaces viewed on your computer screen will give you a new chance to see the shape of your trees and shrubs, the presence or absence of structure, whether you have too much or too little evergreen, what areas could be enhanced with art or containers…

Which brings me to the second of two great winter activities–

Review Your Design, based on what the garden looks like in winter. You can’t do that unless you have a really good look, and do it frequently. Even though not much is growing right now in much of the Northern hemisphere, that doesn’t mean changes aren’t happening. Take that rotten squirrel for example. This morning I had lots of rose hips on that Westerland rose, purposely not pruned off so there was colour there all winter long. Now, not so much. Much as I like my garden to invite local fauna, I have a bias against some local fauna, mainly rodents. Do I want to encourage their presence? Will letting them eat the rose hips (as though I could stop them…) help keep them away from the bird feeders?

So if it’s not too cold, or too wet, or too snow-bound, tour your outdoor spaces frequently, check out changes, take your camera (and take LOTS of pics–they don’t have to be gallery-quality!), and enjoy your winter garden. And winter gardening. And then see if you agree with me or with Elizabeth.

Post Script: Here is a follow-up article by fellow Garden Ranter, Evelyn Hadden.