CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Kent Life today CLICK HERE

A bewitching shimmer

PUBLISHED: 10:16 17 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:39 20 February 2013

The blooms also come in a range of crimsons

The blooms also come in a range of crimsons

Witch hazels offer one of the best winter flower displays in the garden, especially when the low sun catches their spidery blooms. Kent Life visits Chris Lane's National Collection at his nursery in Newington to find out more

Words and pictures by Leigh Clapp

For floral spectacle and fragrance, Hamamelis are hard to beat in the winter garden. Their profusion of spidery flowers in warm hues of golds, orange and crimson is sure to brighten the dullest of winter days; and when sunlight catches them, they are quite breathtaking.

A visit to expert Chris Lane's nursery near Sittingbourne is sure to inspire. The magical sight of them mass planted may bewitch you with their blaze of fiery colours. Chris remembers coming under their spell while working as a lecturer at Hadlow College, near Tonbridge, during the cold winter of 1978-79.

He was amazed how they withstood an arctic -18°C one night, appearing to be scrunched up and withered early in the morning, only to discover that when the temperature rose to -1°C, they had unfurled and recovered brilliantly, unblemished.

From that day on he began collecting witch hazel cultivars, attracted by both their frost-hardy capacity and their enticing scented flowers.

The collection has grown through contacts, such as the late John Bond of Savill Garden near Windsor, and the
late Robert and Jelena de Belders from their famous Belgium arboretum, which boasts some of the world's finest witch hazel cultivars.

By the early 1990s, Chris had moved his collection to an eight-acre windy site by his home in Newington. It has continued to grow as his reputation has spread to growers in the USA and Germany.

Today Chris grows more than 250 cultivars and holds one of the three National Plant Collections.

"These are assessed on a regular basis by the Woody Plants Trials Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society and, after judging, worthy plants are given the Award of Garden Merit," he explains.

The wholesale nursery produces a range of young plants on a contract basis to other nurseries, supplying the garden centre industry, and Chris has also started his own breeding programme.

Chris's favourite witch hazels

Hamamelis x intermedia Pallida
• highly floriferous
• sulphur-yellow blooms
• strongly scented
• easy to grow

Hamamelis x intermedia Vesna
• yellow-orange flowers
• good autumn colour

Hamamelis x intermedia Aphrodite
• orange-red flowers
• burnt orange appearance
• vigorous

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'
• lemony blooms
• good autumn colour

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aurora'
• large yellow-red flowers
• strong scent

Chris's growing advice
• plant where they can be seen from windows
• place near a path or front of a border to enjoy the scent
• traditionally, they have been grown in woodland setting but will grow happily in open site and flowering will be more profuse
• avoid frost pockets as susceptible to late-spring frosts
• all soils, except shallow overlying chalk or limestone
• well-drained, water logging during winter will lead to root death
• good soil preparation important
• don't plant too deeply, surface rooting
• don't plant in wet soil
• do not incorporate organic matter when planting, can add later to surface of soil
• water during dry spells in summer
• can be pruned to contain size after flowering once well established

Get in touch

Witch Hazel Nurseries
Callaways Lane

Only open on designated open days, plants available to purchase. Sun 25 Jan and 8 Feb, 10am to 4pm. Entrance £3 in support of Demelza House Hospice. Also by appointment for groups, tel: 01795 843098.


More from Homes & Gardens

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Thinking of moving to or within Kent? Every month we pick three stunning houses for sale that we’re sure you’ll love

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Friday, August 31, 2018

Rural energy provider, Calor, gives some top tips for homeowners wanting to make their houses cosy and warm in time for the colder months.

Read more
Wednesday, August 22, 2018

If you’re looking to update your home here’s why you should always buy Italian leather furniture

Read more
Sunday, July 1, 2018

Residential property company heylo recently signed the Armed Forces Covenant, pledging its commitment to fair treatment and support to the Armed Forces community, including regulars, reserves, veterans and their families. The signing took place in a ceremony held at Wellington Barracks

Read more

Fancy a mini-holiday in the heart of rural Kent but with plenty of places to eat, drink, shop and explore on your doorstep? Welcome to Bells Cottage by Mulberry Cottages

Read more
June 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
Kent Life Food & Drink awards 2016. Open for entries.

Latest Competitions & Offers

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search