“Every winter the liquid and trembling surface of the pond, which was so sensitive to every breath, and reflected every light and shadow…closes its eyes and becomes dormant for three months or more. Standing on the snow-covered plain, as if in a pasture among the hills, I cut my way through the snow and then a foot of ice, and open a window under my feet, where, kneeling to drink, I look down into the quiet parlor of the fishes, pervaded by the softened light as through a window of ground glass… there a perennial waveless serenity reigns as in the amber twilight sky, corresponding to the cool and even temperament of the inhabitants. Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
It’s March 10 and a very gray day (did you turn your clocks ahead?), but I want you to meet ‘Jelena’. She’s a fiery orange flower blooming right now, unaware that there’s still a lot of snow on the ground and more planned to come.
Jelena blooms on what is arguably my favorite shrub, the Witchhazel. Some call this bush, the Snapping Hazel, a name I prefer not only because it captures the look of this exploding, “bad hair day” flower but also because “Snapping Hazel” sounds like a dame I’d like to share a martini and a political argument with. But never mind, the name, Witchhazel, has its own charms.
The great tree essayist, Donald Culross Peattie (love his name too) who could humanize any tree with his poetic descriptions, points out that it was the wood of the Wych (“to bend”, in Anglo-Saxon) that was once used to douse, divine, or doodlebug for underground water, oil, or gold.
Note that this gentleman may be using the wrong wood if his extremely worried look is any indication…
Witchhazel is not easy to find in your local garden center. I once went looking for it, only to be told by the garden center manager that I’d never find it. After all, why stock a plant that blooms in March when no normal garden customer is shopping. Good point. You’ll have to buy it out of bloom and trust me on this one. Buy a lot of them and plant them in front of conifers for a real blast of color just when we need it most: NOW.
Take a look at the slide show below of witchhazels being tested at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Good places to buy Witchhazel:
CJ Fiore (Prairie Grove and Chicago, IL)
Johnson’s Nursery (Menomonee Falls, WI)
Chalet (Wilmette, IL)