We have RHS trials planted not only at Wisley but also at other sites around the UK. I attended the first assessment meeting of 2015 last Tuesday at the Witch Hazel Nursery near Sittingbourne in Kent.
The nursery holds one of three National Plant Collections of Hamamelis or witch hazel and has over 500 cultivars planted in rows.
The RHS’s Hamamelis forum will judge 135 of these over three years for the Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM) and 2015 is the second assessment year. At the moment, 15 cultivars hold the AGM but by the end of the trial, as the forum members debate the relative merits of each cultivar, this will undoubtedly change.
The meeting started with blue sky and sunshine. The colours of the Hamamelis (in varying shades of yellow, orange, red and a couple which are almost purple) were just stunning and the warmth of the sun brought out the scent.
However by the end of the meeting, the sky had clouded over and the last few Hamamelis looked quite drab in comparison, especially as the rain started to fall. There will be at least two more meetings this year at fortnightly intervals as not everything is at its peak at the same time. There are early, mid-season and later flowering cultivars.
Witch Hazel Nursery is a wholesale nursery and so is not generally open to the public. However the owner Chris Lane holds open days for both his Hamamelis and Wisteria collections.
Do go along and visit on Sunday 1 February 10am to 4pm when guided tours will be available for you to see and smell the Hamamelis. Although there is an entrance fee of £4 per person which includes refreshments, the money raised will be given to Demelza House Hospice, a children’s hospice local to the nursery.
For further information, please see the nursery’s website. As a word of warning, do wear lots of layers – the field is very cold.