Desperate Times, Desperate Measures.

Earlier in the week the weather was halfway decent with warmer daytime temperatures, random bits of sunshine, and some hope for spring….

galanthus wendys gold

Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ is the first snowdrop to escape her shroud of ice and brighten up the bleakness.

But then things turned messy, with snow and ice and a return to regularly scheduled winter temperatures.  By the time Friday rolled around I knew I was in need of escape, so Saturday morning jumped in the car and made the journey down to RareFind Nursery for their Hamamellis festival.  I was pleased to see I wasn’t the only one ready for a plant day.

rare finds nursery hamamelis

Hoophouse #4.  Ground zero for the 50 or so witch hazel (Hamamellis) varieties on sale.  There was a steady stream of people and plants, and I’m glad I was early enough to get the ones I wanted.

In case you’re wondering, Hamamellis are the witch hazels, and you need witch hazels.  Their winter-defying flowers bring color to a garden still very much in grey mode, and for more northern gardeners there just isn’t much else that even comes close.  At this year’s hamamellis festival Steven Kristoph gave an interesting talk on the range and specifics of this plant family, but my lazy take-away was pay attention to bloom time when selecting, plant in decent soil with a little shade from the fiercest sun and they should be trouble free and bring late-winter joy for years to come… even when the crumbling of winter drags on longer than it should.

rare finds nursery hamamelis

Distracted driving.  My passengers for the return trip might not have done a good job keeping up their end of the conversation, but they did offer excellent color and a soft fragrance.

Was the 300 mile round-trip to New Jersey worth it?  Your results may vary, but I say absolutely, and I’m entirely pleased with the goodies which followed me home.  There is a week of lows in the teens and just about no days above freezing next week, so I’m between temporarily digging them in pot-and-all outside along the foundation of the house, or bringing them in to the garage for winter garden enjoyment, but that’s a decision for later today.  In the meantime I’m avoiding the gloom outside and I hope there’s a little more sunshine and warmth where you are.  Have a great week!

27 comments on “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures.

  1. Tim Calkins says:

    Looks like some nice additions. I took a lazier path and ordered some on-line, for April delivery when I hope it is both warmer and and above all drier, but of course won’t get to enjoy any blooms until next year.

    • bittster says:

      That’s funny because I almost went that direction as well. They were in my cart but I just couldn’t cope with waiting until the April delivery date. That was probably the number one reason I drove down there, I just needed to immediately fix the lack of witch hazels in my garden!

  2. Paula says:

    Absolutely everyone needs a witch hazel in their yard, prominently placed so they can be enjoyed looking through your window. I firmly believe everyone’s spirits would be lifted immeasurably when seeing them burst into bloom during gray and depressing winter weather. Who would not enjoy that!

    • bittster says:

      There is much to say about evergreens and colored bark and the beauty of ice crystals, but as winter drags on and the days get longer I need flowers!

  3. The trip was well worth it, I’d say. But you forgot to tell us what varieties you bought. I bought two unusual Witch Hazels from them a couple of years ago. I did not pay attention to flower color at all as one has a variegated leaf and the other is a dwarf and that was enough for me. I’ve been lusting online at their catalog but everything is so snow-covered here that I am having trouble deciding if I have room for anything. I had bunnies attack my dwarf witch hazel so cage them if they are outdoors in this weather just in case . . .

    • bittster says:

      Ahhhh. Good advice, and I did do some caging after I read this.
      They are supposed to be very resistant to deer browsing, but I never considered that the bunnies might have different tastes. Come to think of it they have nibbled at the base of the one I already have, but that one already has some height and sturdy bark so it wasn’t a big deal.
      I hope we only have about one more week of real winter. The birds are starting to sing when the sun comes up even on the coldest mornings and I think they know something 🙂
      Oh, and the two witch hazels are ‘Diane’ and ‘Barmstedt Gold’… with two yellows, ‘Angelly’ and ‘ Savill Starlight’ in the backseat 🙂

  4. Pauline says:

    I love your choice, they will brighten up any dull day. They might not have made good passengers, their conversation may have lacked somewhat, but they will look beautiful in your garden.

  5. Chloris says:

    Ah but which ones did you buy? They are all worth it. Your car must have smelt divine.

    • bittster says:

      ‘Diane’ and ‘Barmstedt Gold’ are with me in the front seat, two yellows, ‘Angelly’ and ‘ Savill Starlight’ shared the back. I think witch hazel is one of the scents I struggle to smell, but in the hoop house and on the ride home I did get to enjoy it. Maybe over the years as my garden fills with a hamamelis forest, the scent will be strong enough outdoors for my nose!

  6. Eliza Waters says:

    Ooh, what a tough choice to choose from so many varieties. Every year I say I’m going to get one or two, but never see them in our nurseries. Maybe I need to drive further!

    • bittster says:

      That was my problem. I found them once in a local nursery, and that’s where my current plant came from, but never anything different. Now that the urgency is gone and I can wait for delivery dates, I might try another one or two mailorder to round out the witch hazel grove.

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Well worth the drive. What else could you have been doing anyway on such a cold day??? Your passengers home look divine. Put them in your garage. I am so coveting your Wendy’s Gold Galanthus.

    • bittster says:

      Lisa, I hate to say it but I put them out in the garden already. There were a few spots where the frost was out of the soil enough that I could dig, but now it looks like the temperatures are going to drop again next week, so I’ll have to worry a little still.
      At least I was able to enjoy them a bunch already, and deep down I suspect they’ll be just fine.

  8. Yes, inquiring minds want to know which ones came home with you, especially with a such variety to choose from. How could you leave this important detail out?!!!?

    • bittster says:

      I know… actually I thought people don’t pay much attention to these things, but now I realize just how seriously plant nerdy some of my online friends are. They’re ‘Diane’ and ‘Barmstedt Gold’ in the photo, and ‘Angelly’ and ‘ Savill Starlight’ in the backseat. As I was making up my mind I had Coldwater Pond’s list in mind. That way I can still add a few in May 😉

  9. Peter Herpst says:

    A load of happy-making plants is always worth the trip, especially this time of year!

  10. Christina says:

    A great way to spend the day, glad you got the ones you wanted but you didn’t tell us which they are!!!!

    • bittster says:

      They’re ‘Diane’ and ‘Barmstedt Gold’ pictured, and two yellows, ‘Angelly’ and ‘ Savill Starlight’ in the back seat. I did enjoy the trip, and I’m actually itching this weekend to do it again… unfortunately hamamelis festivals are few and far between in this end of the world!

  11. Cathy says:

    Ooh, love your passengers! Last week I thought 50 euros for one at my local garden centre was too pricey, but I think I should go back and get one after all. (Only about 10 miles away in my case….) They are just so pretty for February. Do these you brought home have names?

    • bittster says:

      Did you end up going back? I suspect you now have more hellebores on your mind now and that’s going to jump to Easter primulas or something just as much fun in a few more days. I think it’s that time of year when we get desperate!
      Mine were in the $40-$55 range, so surprisingly enough they were cheaper than yours. Still kind of rich for my blood, but I was desperate. They’re Diane’ and ‘Barmstedt Gold’ in the photo and I also had two yellows, ‘Angelly’ and ‘ Savill Starlight’, in the back.

      • Cathy says:

        I didn’t go back… not yet anyway! But I did order three new hellebores from a specialist nursery for around the same sum of money as one witch hazel… I am trying to be sensible and get the new bed ready before I buy any larger shrubs! 😉

  12. A fine expedition, well worth the journey, and what beautiful company for the trip back.

  13. NICE! I will have to see if I can find Witch Hazel here.

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