Kepaniwai Park Heritage Gardens

It is hard to believe that the dense rainforests and jagged peaks of Maui’s Iao Valley were once the scene of some of the bloodiest battles in King Kamehameha the Great’s quest to unify the Hawaiian Islands. In the 1790s, during the height of the conflict, there were so many warriors slain that their bodies blocked the stream. That battle was called Kepaniwai, which in English means “damming of the waters.”

The history of Iao Valley goes back more than 1,000 years. Ancient Hawaiians gathered in the valley for their annual makahiki festival. This celebration honoured Lono, the God of agriculture. Before Captain Cook put Hawaii on the European map, the valley was a major population center and the largest farming area in the islands. Taro farmers had their hales, or cottages on the slopes and along the valley floor. Fishermen lived along the shores of marine rich Kahului Bay. That all changed by the late 1800s. By then sugar was king and the water that was once used to irrigate island crops was diverted to nourish the cane fields. Iao Valley became the Hawaiian equivalent of a ghost town.

Today Iao Valley is a State Park. Hiking trails wind through the valley’s floors. Visitors are asked to stay on the trails, as the Iao Valley is a burial ground for many of Hawaii’s ali’i, or royalty. Steps lead you up to the top of the Iao Valley Needle. The needle, a pointed spire made of volcanic basalt, was once used as a lookout for warriors during times of war but now offers a panoramic view of the valley and beyond.

Just outside the park, the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, taking its name from the battle described above, is a memorial to those ancient Hawaiians as well as the many cultures that followed. Stroll the pathways past a New England Salt Box house complete with white picket fence and flagstone patio. Visit a restored ancient Hawaiian hale with its lava rock walls and thatched roof and a Portuguese outdoor oven surrounded by a European style garden complete with Virgin Mary statue. A Chinese Moon Gate graces one of the entryways, and a bold aqua and pink Korean Pavilion overlooks its own garden, graced by a statue of the God Haitai. Explore a replica of a bamboo walled Filipino Nipa Hut.

The Japanese Gardens, representing those from that nation that came in the mid 1800s to work the cane fields, include an authentic tea house and two Japanese temples, one of them large enough to walk through. Pathways lead over arched stone bridges spanning koi filled ponds and past carved stone pagodas and lanterns. A life size bronze statue of two Japanese field workers greets visitors to the collection of tropical flowers and carefully sculptured trees. Designed by garden architect Richard Tongg, Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens is just off of Highway 32 in Central Maui.

Orchids Listed

These very beautiful plants have tended to suffer from a bad press. There seems to be a general impression that they are very difficult to grow, requiring dedication, patience and special growing conditions. Some do but many are easy-going plants that most gardeners can succeed with.

Probably the most limiting factor in your choice of orchids is the severity of frost your garden experiences and the amount of winter rainfall. There are a few very hardy orchids but most of the more commonly grown genera are somewhat frost tender though few require sub-tropical conditions.

Winter rainfall is an important consideration if you intend to grow the hardy terrestrial orchids such as Pleione orCymbidium outdoors. Too much rain combined with cold weather will cause rotting.

The native orchids are seldom cultivated except by dedicated enthusiasts. They are mainly hardy plants but seldom do well in cultivation. Some species have very precise growing requirements.

Doubtless you will be able to grow a wider range and achieve greater success if you can build some sort of green house or other protective structure. This doesn’t need to be anything very elaborate. A simple lean-to structure attached to a garage will be perfectly adequate in most cases.

Orchid Cultivation

Growing Conditions

Orchids vary considerably in their demands. Some need the conditions that only a heated greenhouse can provide, others will grow outdoors under normal conditions, most fall somewhere between the two extremes. Enthusiasts don’t baulk at the power bills that growing warm temperature orchids bring but most of would find them too expensive. However a wide range can be grown with minimal heating or even in an unheated frost free greenhouse.

Cymbidium, Cattleya, Odontoglossum, Paphiopedilum, Coleogyne and Lycaste are some of the more tender genera that can be grown without having to use too much extra heating. They get by perfectly well with winter minimums of 10°C and will tolerate lower temperatures for short periods. Cymbidium and some Coleogyne species can be grown outside year round in frost free areas.

In many ways the hardy outdoor species are more difficult to grow. Not because they can’t tolerate the cold but because of other seasonal factors, such as humidity levels and rainfall. The most commonly grown is Bletilla striatabut it is seldom a spectacular plant. Pleione is a more interesting genus. Often grown in alpine houses these hardy terrestrial orchids may be grown in gardens if special attention is given to drainage and siting.

Orchids generally require bright indirect light. Most will tolerate direct sunlight for a few hours a day but not through glass. Many orchids will tolerate poor light for extended periods but their flowering will be adversely affected.

Maintaining the humidity above 50% is important, below this orchids will suffer, 65%–90% is preferable. The easiest way to achieve this in a greenhouse is to spray the floor and other surfaces with water. The evaporating moisture will raise the humidity. In winter lower humidity levels are preferable; the plants are not so active at this time and lower humidity will lessen the prevalence of fungus diseases.

Good ventilation is also important in preventing fungus diseases. Those inexperienced in greenhouse growing tend to close all the vents in winter to keep in as much heat as possible but good ventilation is just as important as maintaining the right temperature. When temperatures rise in summer adequate ventilation is the best means of avoiding overheating. As a rule a greenhouse should have a vent area roughly equal to a third of the floor area.

Greenhouses

There are several styles of greenhouses available to the home gardener. Which you choose will be dictated by the conditions you wish to maintain and the price you can afford to pay.

In the long run the commercially made metal framed glass is house is the cheapest to run but the initial outlay is high. Plastic skinned tunnel houses are a cheaper alternative but they require re-skinning every five years or so.

The cheapest alternative is an entirely home built greenhouse and in many ways it’s also the most satisfactory. Doing it yourself means that you get the size and design that you want. The work involved shouldn’t tax even a mediocre carpenter.

The construction doesn’t need to be anything elaborate. A simple wooden framework will be quite adequate. 100mm × 50mm timber is heavy enough for the main structure with 50mm × 50mm for intermediate support and bracing. Anything lighter than 50mm × 50mm is likely to warp excessively. Use only ground treated timber, H4 grade or better.

Painting the woodwork white will reflect more light but most greenhouses are bright enough. Painting or staining will, however, extend the life of the timber.

Very few of us are competent glaziers so plastic skinning is the preferred covering. Use proper horticultural film of at least 140 microns but preferably the 200 micron grade. Rigid fibreglass or polycarbonate sheeting is a longer lasting alternative but is expensive for all but very small structures.

Secure the plastic with 50mm × 12mm battening strips. Where the plastic meets the ground either secure it to a partially buried wooden beam at ground level or leave some surplus that can be buried. This should eliminate drafts at ground level, which can be very damaging.

Unless you have a proper double skinned or double glazed greenhouse you will need to add extra insulation in winter. The bubble plastic used in packaging is effective but better still are the horticultural grade infra-red reflecting plastics. These can be stapled to a wood framed house or taped to a metal frame.

In most parts of the country some form of winter heating will be necessary. Electricity is the easiest to use and probably the most economical as electric heaters can be run off simple thermostats for maximum efficiency. Kerosene, natural gas and coal boilers are alternatives but they require careful setting and maintenance, are often expensive to install, and may produce poisonous fumes.

Containers

The traditional terracotta pot has long been favoured for orchids. These have the advantage of being porous, which means there are no drainage problems and the roots are kept well aerated. Unfortunately terracotta pots are expensive when compared to plastic and they are easily broken, consequently plastic is now the more widely used material.

Most pots are suitable just as they are but make sure they have adequate drainage holes. Extra holes are easily made in plastic pots either with drills or a heated metal rod, such as the tip of a soldering iron.

Hanging baskets made of wire or interlaced wooden strips are alternatives to traditional pots. Unlike the hanging baskets used for regular plants these are usually not lined. Instead a very coarse soil mix that will not fall through the holes is used. If necessary a thin lining of sphagnum moss will keep the mix in place.

Epiphytic orchids can be often be grown in pots with very coarse potting mix but are better grown in the hanging basket type container. This is because their roots can reach the air more easily. Some epiphytic orchids resent being confined in containers, these are best grown on slabs of tree fern or other bark. Until the roots gain hold the plants will need to be firmly tied to the support with a strong but unobtrusive thread.

Potting Mixes

Orchid mixes are very coarse and open compared to the more familiar potting mixes. Those unfamiliar with this type of soil wonder how it can possibly retain enough moisture for plant growth.

The answer is in the nature of the orchids grow habit. Most orchids have a conspicuous food storage organ known as a pseudobulb. The plants can survive for considerable periods on the reserves stored in the pseudobulb. The roots serve to recharge the pseudobulb and operate best in well drained and aerated soils. Too much moisture or too little air will rot the roots and ultimately the pseudobulb.

Orchid roots actually attach themselves to the soil material and so bind the soil to the plant. Anyone that has ever tried to clear the soil mix from Cymbidium will be familiar with the way the roots grasp the larger chunks of bark or fern fibre.

Most modern orchid mixes are made from composted bark. Regular bark based mixes can be used if they are sieved to remove the very fine material. The fine sievings can be used as seed raising or cutting mixes for other plants.

Even this mix may retain moisture for too long so add some coarse bark or polystyrene bubbles. Experiment with these materials until you have an extremely free draining open mix.

Watering and Nutrients

The mix should not remain obviously wet for more than a day or so after watering. Prolonged or repeated periods in wet soil will lead to rotted roots.

Watering is not so much a matter of how often to water but how quickly the plant dries out between waterings. Epiphytic orchids usually need to dry out within a day or two of watering or they may rot. Terrestrial orchids tend to prefer soils that retain moisture longer.

Your soil mix consistency will go a long way to avoiding any rotting problems. Keep the mix open and coarse for epiphytes and a little more dense and moisture retentive for terrestrials. Once you have the right soil consistency when to water is generally quite apparent. This all seems more than a little vague but it’s really a matter of experience.

Although orchid soil mixes may seem to be very lacking in nutrients most of the common genera will thrive in them, however, like any plants they will eventually need feeding. There are a number of pre-mixed orchid fertilisers available and most are quite satisfactory provided the directions are followed. Do not overfeed orchids; they are quite easily killed by that sort of kindness.

Enthusiasts will blend their own fertilisers but most home gardeners would be better to stick to a commercial formula. If you do want to make up your own mix it pays to thoroughly research the particular plant’s requirements.

Propagation

The easiest method of propagation is division of the clusters of pseudobulbs. This eventually has to be done even if you don’t require more plant as an orchid in an overcrowded pot will eventually cease to flower.

Some orchids will produce stems with aerial roots. These can be removed from the parent plant and grown on. Orchids with rhizomes rather than obvious pseudobulbs can be divided or pieces of rooted rhizome can be removed and grown on.

Growing from seed is another method but requires care. Orchid seed is generally very fine and seldom germinates well if sown on soil in the usual manner. The accepted method is to sow the seed in sterile flasks on a nutrient enriched agar jelly.

The exact make-up of the nutrient solution varies from genus to genus. If you wish to try this method contact your local horticultural society or orchid society for details of some of the more common formulas.

Tissue culture is widely used in commercial orchid propagation. Cultured plants are available from specialist growers.

Pests and Diseases

Orchids grown indoors are subject to the same pests and diseases as most greenhouse plants. You will probably be familiar with aphids, slugs, snails, mites and scale insects but mealy bugs are less commonly seen under normal garden conditions.

Mealy bugs have an unusual appearance. They are covered with a white powder and fine white hairs. They feed by sap sucking and leaf rasping and may be quite debilitating if present in large numbers.

Probably the most common disease is sooty mould caused by a fungus that grows on the honeydew secreted by feeding insects. The cure for this involves first removing the insects and then spraying with a fungicide, such as mancozeb, to halt the mould.

Most other fungus problems, such as root rots and leaf spotting, can be traced to poor growing conditions, especially overwatering and poor ventilation.

Orchids may also become infected with viruses. These often appear as unusually marked patches on the leaves, flowers or stems or may simply result in stunted growth. Nothing can be done to cure virus infected plants so if badly affected they are best got rid of.

Orchid Selection

There are hundreds of orchid genera, many very closely allied to one another. The following is a selection of a few of the more commonly grown.

Bletilla

The ‘Chinese Ground Orchid’ (B. striata) is a hardy deciduous species. Remarkable for its ease of cultivation rather than its flamboyance. Will grow in any moist garden soil in light shade. Magenta to purple flowers from spring.

Cattleya

Spectacular and reasonably tough plants. They are easy for beginners and often represent the next step afterCymbidiumCattleya is a mainly epiphytic genus and develops large pseudobulbs that enable the plants to withstand some drought. They prefer to dry out between waterings and prefer lightly shaded conditions.

Coleogyne

A large genera many of the species of which are fairly hardy and may be grown outdoors in genuinely frost free areas. Most need cool summer temperatures and are an ideal choice for a shadehouse. They prefer light shade and shelter from winter rain. Usually flowers from late winter.

Cymbidium

Without doubt the most widely grown orchid genera. Tough and adaptable Cymbidium is the ideal choice for the beginner. Plants are available in a huge range of colours and flower patterns. Able to tolerate extended periods with overnight temperatures of 5°C and drought tolerant. It’s very hard to kill a Cymbidium but they do so much better when looked after.

Capable of being grown outside year round in many areas. Medium to high light levels are preferred. The soil should be allowed to dry between waterings in winter but should be kept moist when the plants are in active growth. Feed regularly. May flower at any season but usually from late winter to late spring.

Dendrobium

There are native species but those commonly grown are exotic. They require reasonably warm nigh temperatures; preferably not below 12°C. Most develop conspicuous pseudobulbs and produce their flowers on long canes.

Epidendrum

The common ‘Crucifix Orchid’ (E. ibaguense) is the best known of this genus. Most species will tolerate some frost and are good in shadehouses. Not spectacular but unusual. The aerial roots are a feature. Rather tall but excess growth with aerial roots can be removed and grown on. No pseudobulbs.

Laelia

Mainly epiphytic orchids that will tolerate cool conditions. Most species will grow outdoors if frost free. Prefers light shade and should be allowed to dry between waterings. May be grown on bark slabs. Many of the species flower in autumn and winter.

Lycaste

Easily cultivated epiphytic orchids. Their culture is very similar to Cymbidium. They prefer cool summer temperatures and will tolerate winter lows of 5°C. Allow to dry in winter but keep moist in summer. Some of the species are deciduous. The long strap-like leaves can become untidy and are easily damaged.

Masdevilla

These epiphytic orchids prefer low to medium light levels and high humidity. Best in cool even temperatures; winter lows of around 5°C to summer highs of not more than 23°C. Some species do well outdoors in genuinely frost free areas. They prefer even moisture throughout the year but must not be overwatered. This genus does not produce pseudobulbs.

Pleione

Often grown in pans in alpine houses and capable of standing some frost. The flowers resemble Cattleya but the plants are considerably smaller. Fully dormant in winter. Plant in gritty soil and water and feed once actively growing.

Odontoglossum

Not too demanding but intolerant of very bright conditions. Able to tolerate overnight winter temperatures of 8°C or slightly lower. They like cool daytime temperatures. Often better in a shadehouse over summer. Allow to dry in winter but keep moist when growing. May be grown on bark slabs.

Oncidium

A very complex grouping of related genera. They require bright conditions and winter lows of not less than 10°C. The flowers are spectacular and freely produced on healthy plants. Miltonia is a closely related genus. Many intergeneric forms exist.

Paphiopedilum

Commonly known as the slipper orchid due to the flower’s prominent pouch. Easily grown but many require warm conditions with temperatures above 15°C. The tougher species will tolerate 8-10°C for short periods. Day temperatures should be below 25°C. This narrow temperature range is the main barrier to success. They prefer low to medium light and should be kept moist throughout the year.

Phalaenopsis

The ‘Moth Orchids’ demand warm temperatures with winter minimums of 15°C although they will tolerate 12°C or lower for brief periods. They prefer low to medium light and high humidity. They need plenty of air at the roots and are best grown in baskets in a very coarse mix.

Vanda

Often tall plants with very prominent aerial roots. Some species will tolerate winter lows down to 8°C but most are more tender. They prefer bright light and plenty of summer moisture but they should be allowed to dry over winter. High humidity is preferable. Stems with aerial roots may be removed and grown on as new plants. The best known species V. coerulea is autumn to winter flowering and one of the hardiest.

Your own Japanese Garden, part two

In my previous article I wrote about considerations and decisions to be taken when you are going to build your own Japanese garden. In this article I’ll elaborate on that.

As the Japanese garden evolved over 15 centuries it is difficult to label or “put in a box”. As there are many garden types in Japan, to typify it as (just) “a Japanese garden” is not enough. It is not workable nor does it do justice. The differences between e.g. a Tea-garden and Karesansui-garden are just too big to talk about in general terms when working on a design.

It is important to know what type of Japanese garden you are “planning” so you can name it and focus on the relevant characteristics. There are of course commonalities between all Japanese garden types but these are often not the subject of discussion. It is required to typify it one degree more precise to be able to successfully realize a Japanese garden, either of a single type or a composition of divers elements and compartments.

One of the first thoughts should be: “what type of Japanese garden do I want to realize ?” Then when decided upon, this typification can become the basis for further study, investigation, discussion, architecture design and elaboration.

Use of Archetypes of gardens according to the Tokyo Agricultural University has proved to be a good approach. Then you can talk about your Japanese “Tea garden” or “Zen garden” or perhaps a combination of elements from different garden (arche)types. The Tokyo Agricultural University recognizes eight archetypes. To make this workable and pragmatic we often see this brought back to 4 or 5 archetypes or main garden types, e.g based on themes or application.

Heian Aristocrats gardens for worship and leisure, Palace gardens, Temple gardens and Nobles-men’s gardens, including Tea gardens and dry rock gardens.
Or:
Strolling and pond garden, Natural (Paradise) garden, flat garden, sand and stone or dry rock garden, tea garden.

Nowadays the Japanese typically categorize their gardens into three broad types.

  • Tsukiyama gardens typically feature artificial hills combined with a pond and a stream, plants, shrubs, and trees.
  • Karesansui or dry landscape garden.
  • Chaniwa or tea-garden, attached to the tea-ceremony.

Following the complete list of eight garden archetypes according to Tokyo Agricultural University (in time from 6th Century until modern day):

  • Ceremony Worship ceremonies, including routes for worshiping.
  • Leisure The ancient capital 1300 years ago: Today a legacy from the past.
  • Paradise Representation of Paradise on Earth. Joruri-ji Temple, in the hills near Nara, is the only existing Heian-era Amida Hall with nine images of Amida representing the nine levels of enlightenment.
  • Zen Ryoan-ji is regarded the archetype Zen or karesansui (dry rock) garden.
  • Buke(-zukuri) A style of residential architecture in use among the bushi or warrior class.
  • Tea Garden and house dedicated to the Tea Ceremony, Cha-no-yu. Highly influenced by Buddhism in particular Zen.
  • Theme
    Katsura Imperial Villa is a circuit style garden with small and large islands connected by bridges.
    Kenroku-en is “a strolling-style landscape garden”. “Kenroku-en” literally means “garden that combines six characteristics”. Grouped in their traditional complementary pairs, they are spaciousness & seclusion, artifice & antiquity, water-courses & panoramas.
    Both gardens take full advantage of seasonal change.
  • Modern Gardens from the last century and a half.
    A “new type of karesansui garden” or “modern karesansui garden” by Shigemori Mirei.
    This type is not (yet) included in the list but gets more and more recognition as a distinct type, perhaps not so much as a new archetype.

An other style-element regards complexity or the degree of elaboration of a garden(compartment). The book Tsukiyama teizoden names three:

  • Shin, very elaborate and formal.
  • Gyo, intermediate and semi-formal.
  • So, the simplest informal.

Is then “So”, the simplest of all, the Zen version ? Not so.
The complexity here relates to the number of elements and objects like: scenes, hills, rocks, stone, tree’s, bushes and other objects and level of detail in a garden. Some Zen gardens have lots of them and hence are not So.

The symbolism, not to mention superstitious beliefs, as such mean little to many (most ?) of us. However symbolism sometimes has a direct impact on the aesthetics of a garden that can not be neglected. Hence you need to take symbolism into account and bring it into the garden if it in your eyes, enhances the appearance and appreciation.
The same is true for the geomancy, nowadays popularised as Feng Shui, (fusui in Japanese) Yin Yang and the Japanese equivalents and interpretations like Yi and the Five Phases as described in the garden book Sakuteiki and older text like Huainanzi which precedes the Five Phase Encyclopedia by about 600 years.
The essence regarding aesthetics from the opening words in the Sakuteiki can be leading for designers:


” In making the garden, you should first understand the overall principles.”

  1. According to the lay of the land, and depending upon the aspects of the water landscape, you should design each part of the garden tastefully, recalling your memories of how nature presented itself for each feature.
  2. Study the examples of work left by the past masters, and considering the desires of the owner of the garden, you should create a work of your own by exercising your tasteful sense.
  3. Think over the famous places of scenic beauty throughout the land, and by making it your own that which appeals to you most, design your garden with the mood of harmony, modelling after the general air of such places.

In the modern translation of the Sakuteiki the authors see three aspects of Buddhism reflected in the garden. The third relating to the aspect of Buddhism by which the religion is seen as a protector of the individual. Inserting specific Buddhist elements in the garden was done for reasons similar to those for introducing elements that had geomantic influence. Both the Buddhist elements and the geomantic elements were perceived as protecting the household. If you are not a follower of Feng Shui, then you only have to take into account these aspects for the impact on the aesthetics of the garden and under the assumption that it will not enhance the appearance and appreciation when seen or experienced by a spectator without a thorough background of the rules and taboosimi or kinki. If you are a follower of Feng Shui then this is a whole different story.
Whatever the case the garden you create must give you the right “feel”, or better “fuzei”.

The picture: Kanji for fuzei in the Japanese flag. Fuzei: “Aesthetic sense” in Sakuteiki the 11th century treatise on Garden Making, the oldest and most revered Japanese text on garden design.

Piet Patings, Tsubo-en Zen-garden, www.zen-garden.org

Witch hazels for winter colour

There’s no denying that winter can be a drab time in the garden and that deciduous shrubs and trees can be rather dull at this time of year, but that’s no reason to write them off entirely, as so many gardeners seem wont to do.

Not only do deciduous shrubs and trees have interesting branch structures — a bonus often overlooked after their autumn colour — some of them flower in winter. Many of those that do, such as wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) and winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), have highly fragrant flowers but they’re not very showy.

Among the exceptions, however, are the witch hazels (Hamamelis spp.). Not only are their flowers often very spicily scented, they’re usually bright shades of yellow, orange and russet red. Sure, the spidery-petalled blooms aren’t that large, but appearing as they do on bare-stems, they really stand out.

The flowers also have an interesting habit that enables them to withstand the cold they must endure while flowering in winter: the flowers open or close in relation to the temperature. So on cold cloudy days and at night they remain closed, but as soon as the weather warms they open and are ready for business again.

Like most of the common deciduous genera, Hamamelis is northern hemisphere-based. There are five species and they are found in the temperate parts of Europe, East Asia and North America. Despite the common name, the genus is not related to the edible hazel nuts, but is in a separate family: the Hamamelidaceae. The name witch hazel comes from early American settlers who saw a resemblance to European hazel and who used the twigs as water divining rods, giving rise to an earlier common name — water witch.

The name hamamelis means “together with fruit” and refers to the plants’ habit of carrying leaf buds, flowers and seed pods of the previous year all at the same time; something believed to be unique among North American trees.

Four species are most often seen in gardens: H. japonica from Japan, H. mollis from western and central China, andH. vernalis and H. virginiana from the southern and central United States. Extracts of the bark and leaves ofHamamelis virginiana are used in cosmetics and eye drops. European settlers acquired their knowledge of witch hazel astringents from Native Americans who had used them for many years, mainly for their styptic properties.

Most garden plants, however, are not species but hybrids of the group classified as H. × intermedia. Their parentage is H. japonica × H. mollis and they are generally smaller than the species but with larger and more colourful flowers.

Among the best known and most commonly available H. × intermedia hybrids are: ‘Arnold Promise’, dense clusters of bright yellow flowers; ‘Diane’, orange-yellow darkening to russet red; ‘Jelena’, orange and gold darkening to bronze red; ‘Primavera’; soft primrose yellow; and ‘Ruby Glow’, bright copper red flowers and reliable autumn foliage colour.

There are also several selected forms of H. mollis, but they don’t show such a variation in colour, being mainly yellow shades. Those you’ll most likely see are ‘Goldcrest’, which has bright yellow flowers with a maroon basal blotch, and ‘Pallida’, which has soft sulphur yellow flowers.

In areas with distinct seasons, witch hazels often develop attractive orange and red autumn foliage tones. In mild climates the seasons are often not differentiated sharply enough for these colours to be seen at their best.

Cultivation

Witch hazels are not difficult to grow in a suitable climate. They are very hardy to frost and actually require some winter cold to be at their best. In mild northern areas they may not get the necessary winter chilling to produce good flowering wood and to ensure that the foliage drops completely to reveal the flowers. However, provided your garden sees the occasional light frost, the climatic requirements aren’t too much of a problem.

Witch hazels are otherwise undemanding. Simply give them well-drained soil, an occasional watering in summer and a position in sun or morning shade. If any pruning is required, and it’s rare that anything more than a light trim is necessary, then do it immediately after flowering.

Provided they have been container-grown, witch hazels can be planted out at any time. Open-ground-raised plants should be planted in winter, which is also when any transplanting should be done. Witch hazels of almost any size can be successfully transplanted when dormant.

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Several other member of the Hamamelidaceae family are also valuable additions to the range of winter flowering plants. My favourite is Sycopsis sinensis, a near-evergreen tree from the Himalayas, China and, surprisingly, Malaysia. Its flowers are unscented and relatively small but are beautiful shades of cream, yellow and orange. They’re well worth close inspection. You might also consider the Persian ironbark (Parrotia persica), which, like the witch hazels, is deciduous and flowers when it has no leaves. It is a native of Northern Iran, and while its unscented red flowers are interesting, its most attractive features are its multi-coloured flaking bark and vivid autumn foliage.

CorylopsisFothergilla and Loropetalum are other fairly common genera that belong to the witch hazel family.