It is a family tradition to walk up the hill and into the woods this time of year to seek out the witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blossoms. This is a native shrub or small tree that prefers moist, acidic soil–which we have in abundance.
In some years, the witch hazel doesn't drop its leaves, making it more difficult to see the flowers.
This year we found many trees with the leaves already gone.
The flower-filled branches are enchanting
This is a plant that has romantic connotations for me. (Narcissus is another one.) I already told the story in a previous post, so I’ll just quote myself here:
The first autumn we lived here, my husband took me up in these woods. He was obviously looking for something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Finally, he stopped and said, “Look up.” There before us was a rather large witch hazel completely spangled with the feathery blossoms. I was enchanted. It looked like stars had fallen and gotten caught in the branches.
It’s been a long time in coming, but I think we finally have a witch hazel year equal to that memorable, almost mythic one. Honey, are you up for a walk?
Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.
in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013