Height: 3 m (10 feet)
Spread: 2 m (6 feet)
Bloom: primrose-yellow with copper red centre, very early spring before foliage
Exposure: Full sun
Pluses: blooms even in the snow, an early start to the season
Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids are a cross between H. japonica (Japanese witch hazel) and H. mollis (Chinese witch hazel). Their best feature is that they are the first shrubs to bloom in the garden. The bright yellow blooms of Westerstede appear during late winter when you are just looking for a sign that the gardening season is soon to begin.
I planted two Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids in 2007. One was Westerstede, a container grown shrub that was already about 5 feet high. I also planted ‘Diane’ in late summer however I could only find a 2 foot high specimen at the time.
Both flower very early. In my zone 5 Southern Ontario garden I find the blooms appear between mid-March and very early April. In 2008, after a very cold and snow covered winter, Westerstede bloomed by the first week of April but usually it is in full bloom by the third week in March.
The flowering period is long, typically lasting 4 weeks. Even a drop in temperature or ice on the blooms does not bother them. Many have remarked on how the blooms have a sweet scent but even up close I’d have to say I’ve never noticed any fragrance.
Westerstede is a vigorous grower, with a vase shape. The summer foliage is broad, oval and bright green, mostly a good backdrop colour. The fall colour is slightly yellow, but nothing spectacular. In 2010 and 2011 I began to notice that my Westerstede was only blooming at the tips of the branches. After blooming I pruned the shrub back about 8 inches in 2011. Apparently it did not like this very much and some of the branches died back further. I carefully pruned out the dead branches and will watch to see if I have any new growth in 2012.
Hamamelis ‘Diane’ is a little smaller than ‘Westerstede’ (2.5m x 2m). Coppery-red flowers appear before dark green foliage. Branches have a similar upright to vase shape. While the coppery-red flowers look striking up close, they are rather small and the darker colour makes them hard to see from a distance. Plant ‘Diane’ closer to where you can view it from indoors in order to enjoy the early blooms.
Grow Witch Hazel in non-alkaline, rich, well drained soil. They prefer full sun or semi-shade and will grow to a height and spread of about 3m (10 feet). Witch Hazel shows off it’s blooms from a distance much better with backlighting from the sun so place it to catch early morning or late day sun.
Garden Location: Westerstede is planted in the Carolinian Garden where I can see it from the kitchen window which is nice. Diane is planted in between the Hawthorn Grove and vegetable garden and unfortunately I cannot enjoy the blooms unless I walk out that way. I still like the overall shape and foliage show the rest of the year though.