Winter Hazels Welcome Spring
This article was first published on 25 Sep 2012.
The common name of this genus is a bit misleading as when the winter hazels begin to flower I know that spring is fully on its way, even if the weather tells us otherwise. They are not the hazels that produce the delicious edible nuts, but are in fact a relative of witch hazels, both being in the Hamamelidaceae family.
Flowers are the spectacular feature of Corylopsis and show at this time of year as small pendant racemes of fragrant lemon-yellow flowers, resembling catkins. Even though each flower is small, they appear en masse before leaves emerge, giving an overall yellow waterfall effect.
This East Asian native will often form a multi stemmed shrub to 3 metres’ height and spread. Propagation is easy, from seed or from semi ripe cuttings in summer.
Corylopsis respond well to pruning which means height can be controlled. Pruning is best done immediately after flowering. With a fibrous root system they also respond well to pot culture and can be used for bonsai.
Whether in the ground or a pot, they prefer acidic moisture-retentive, but not waterlogged soil and a site in partial to full shade. Even though fully hardy, wood is brittle so choose a sheltered site away from potential for heavy snow and strong winds.
Corylopsis species can be seen in the lower garden car park and in the North Asian Border in the upper Botanic Garden near the junctions of Lovelock Avenue and Opoho Road.
Dylan Norfield is Geographic and Arboretum Collection Curator at Dunedin Botanic Garden