March plant of the month: buttercup witch hazel

There’s a magic feel to the woodland gardens at Wisley this time of year...

Corylopsis paucifloraThere's something wonderful the very beginnings of spring. Each day the sun grows stronger but we've still got many weeks before the leafy tree canopy closes over.

While sunlight is still able to reach the woodland floor, the ground level fills with snowdrops, cyclamen, crocus, hellebores, then daffodils, and the shrub layer sparkles with witch hazels, camellias (subject to cold weather!) and soon, emerging magnolias.

But among them, a shrub with dangling yellow bell-shaped flowers and an attractive, open habit catches the eye. This is Corylopsis pauciflora, or buttercup witch hazel.

This slow-growing, medium-sized deciduous shrub will grow to 1.5-2.5m (5-8ft) after about ten years or so, and likes a woodland setting with acid soil. In March it looks wonderful when masses of fragrant, pale yellow, bell-shaped flowers open. They dangle, almost drip, off the bare branches in short, drooping racemes. We love the effect!

...masses of fragrant, pale yellow, bell-shaped flowers  dangle, almost drip, off the bare branches in short, drooping racemes. We love the effect!

Corylopsis paucifloraLater, the leaves open with a tinge of bronzey-red before turning fully green. The leaves show the family link to its siblings in the witch hazel family (Hamamelidaceae).

To see this lovely shrub in all its glory, come and visit Oakwood at Wisley, but you’ll find more on the Winter Walk and between the two ponds on Seven Acres.


See also

Buy Corylopsis pauciflora direct from RHS Plants

How to prune Corylopsis

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