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  • Writer's pictureKATE REFINE DESIGNS

First Bloom

Walking in the forest preserve today, a mild 35 degree, late winter day, I spotted the first bloom of the year. The bloom was that of a Hamamelis vernalis, or Vernal Witchhazel. The Vernal Witchhazel is the first shrub to bloom in our Northern Illinois area, usually beginning in mid-February. The bloom is a tiny, strappy yellow flower, and it often has a red center. The tiny petals tend to curl in colder temperatures. The flower is not only wonderful to see in February, is also quite fragrant.

The witchhazel can be used in a naturalized setting, like the one I saw it in at the forest preserve. It does tend to sucker, and can form a colony, which does make it a perfect screen. The Vernal Witchhazel will grow to be approximately 8'-10' tall and wide. It is best sited in full sun to part shade in moist, well-drained soil. It is does not perform well in dry soils.

Siting a Vernal Witchhazel in a residential landscape, keep in mind that its size can be quite substantial at 8'-10' . So it would be great at the back of a border, or in an area of a yard that would not be overwhelmed by the habit. But I would also recommend it to be situated in an area where you are likely to notice it in late winter - I would not want this shrub in a forgotten area of the yard, as you would want to make sure you are able to notice the lovely little blooms that portend that Spring is near.

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