Good trees for urban gardens: Witch hazel and hazel nut hold their own in winter

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Native hazel nut tree

As I look around my garden during the end of our unusual snow event, I see two trees that are not bothered by our cold and snow.

While most flowering trees are shivering and holding on to their blossoms until spring, the witch hazel (hamamelis) and native beaked hazel nut tree (corylus cornuta) are holding their own.

The native hazel nut produces catkins, which start in January and are still hanging on. The birds seem to love the tree. During the last couple of weeks, I  have seen robins perched on the very top and chickadees and even a steller’s jay hopping through the tree.

The hazel nut tree in my yard is very protected and has plenty of water. It has grown larger than predicted. I have read that it can cause problems with its allergens, probably from the catkins.

The witch hazel “Arnold’s Promise” (hamamelis) has very hardy yellow blossoms and beautiful fall color. It is also very fragrant. It is a slow grower and considered a large shrub or small tree. It would be happier and have more blossoms in a more protected spot. It is above a rockery with sharp drainage and full southern sun. If you plan to buy a witch hazel, find a more protected spot. Shade from evergreens would make it happier. I have to be sure I water it  frequently and keep it mulched in the summer.
But for now I am happy to see both trees in the winter.— By Barbara Chase

Barbara Chase is a Master Gardener who serves on the City of Edmonds Citizens Tree Board.