Garden blooms in December? In the eastern U.S., native witch hazel, “Hamamelis virginiana,” flowers with wispy yellow papery bursts of pale yellow in late fall and early winter. These intriguing shrubs and small trees have a branching structure which can be quite architectural. The fall color is gorgeous. In the Chesapeake, witch hazels grow easily and well in sun and part shade. Another witch hazel, native to the central part of the U.S., “Hamamelis vernalis,” blooms later.
Witch hazels are ideal near a window where you can watch fall color, the unique blooms unfurl and, ultimately, the flowers. These plants are also great out in the garden backlit by the sun. You can easily prune them to keep on the smaller side.
If you are looking for the native, please be aware there are many Asian witch hazels and hybrids for sale. I have bought several witch hazels over the years described as native but which ended up blooming in late winter with orange and reddish blooms and were likely cultivars.
About witch hazel from the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Everything you want to know about various witch hazels and how natives compare to cultivars in a summary of a Chicago Botanical Garden trial of numerous witch hazels.
A wonderful and short article “The Magic of Witch Hazel” by David Taft from the New York Times. To read the article, you may have to open a free account.
A short overview with a photo of a beautifully pruned small tree from Fine Gardening.