February’s Bloom Where You Are Planted Edition
Photo by Paul W. Meyer
Our History at Home offerings typically sprout from history and architecture. Today, and once every month, we offer a conservation cornucopia from the Conservancy and some friends on trees, gardening, and stormwater management. We hope to help you “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”
February – Winter Blooming Witch Hazels
by Paul W. Meyer, Conservancy Board Member and
Morris Arboretum’s Retired F. Otto Haas Executive Director
Hamamelis mollis ‘Princeton Gold’ is dramatically highlighted against dark evergreens at Gates Hall, Morris Arboretum.
As winter drags on into February and March, nothing lifts our spirits and kindles the hope of spring like the winter-blooming witch hazels that sometimes starts blooming as early as January.  These are large shrubs or small, usually multi-stemmed trees, occasionally growing up to over 20 feet in height. They are primarily derived from three species – Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis), Ozark witch hazel (H. vernalis) and Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica).
The sulfur-yellow flowers of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ are particularly outstanding on a gloomy wintery day.
I first encountered winter blooming witch hazel while working in the famed Hillier Arboretum in southern England. After traveling to Germany for the Christmas holiday season, I returned to the Arboretum in early January, 1974 and was delighted to discover Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ in full flower, seeming to glow in the dim English winter light.
This particular one grabbed my attention from afar, but I soon discovered a number of others growing nearby. Thus began my annual winter fascination with these surprising winter blooming witch hazels.
Witch hazel petals are neatly coiled in the bud and unfurl as they open.
Until recent decades, winter blooming witch hazels were relatively unknown outside of botanic gardens and connoisseur’s gardens, and little work had been done in selecting superior flowering forms. In 1963, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University introduced one of the early hybrid cultivars, ‘Arnold Promise.’ The original plant was grown from seed taken from a Chinese witch hazel in the collection where the Japanese species was growing nearby. As the seedling matured, its profuse flowering attracted attention, and its characteristics were determined to be intermediate between the Chinese and Japanese species.
Continue reading and see the full gallery of images HERE.
Photos by Paul W. Meyer
Bottom Photo: Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Rubin’ is the most intense red-flowered witch hazels.
See the entire gallery of images for this month’s article at our Tree of the Month page! Visit our History at Home page for more information.
Chestnut Hill Conservancy is regularly highlighting special trees in our community, both large and small, as well as common and obscure. In doing so we hope to promote an appreciation of our arbor legacy and foster a culture of stewardship and renewal of this invaluable resource.
February – Edible Gardens
by Emilie Lapham, Conservancy Board Member, avid gardener, botanical artist, and active participant in several noted local and national garden organizations.
Wales. Potatoes and fruit trees.
I look out my window and there is 15 inches of snow covering the landscape. This is actually good for most plants as it provides insulation from wind and harsh temperatures, but it will melt and spring will emerge. Now it is planning season for gardeners so let us look at the possibility of edible gardens. Imagine a colorful salad picked in your garden!
Isle of Skye.
Wales. Figs, artichokes, and fruit trees.
Functional or edible gardens have always been of interest to me. Every place I go, I scan for vegetable and fruit gardens and I photograph them even if my fellow travelers keep walking. Gardens reveal a great deal about the culture and lifestyle of a given place. When I look through my many garden images I see a variety of ideas and ways to make a garden.
To choose a good spot for a garden, first look at light. Full sun or sun for most of the day is optimal. Water is the next consideration as the garden will need plenty of water but you also want good drainage. A rain barrel might be a good sustainable addition. Irrigation?
Italy. lemon trees for sale.
New Jersey. Drip irrigation.
There are many ways to construct a garden and the perimeter can be an aesthetic choice including decorative details. Research materials with which to build fences, walls, hedges and gates. It is a good idea to expect hungry garden visitors and plan solutions ahead of problems. Wildlife can range from deer to much smaller creatures like rabbits and birds. Some choices depend on where your property is located and what you plan to grow.
Next, will it be raised beds or directly in the ground or a combination? Raised beds are very popular and make it easy to have good quality, stone free soil. Add organic material, compost is gold! Raised beds can be custom built but there are also many kits available in garden centers and by order.
Wyndmoor, gate.
A cold frame will also extend your growing season at both ends.
When the garden is ready for planting, start with some cool season seeds and plants. It is also possible to start seeds indoors or in a cold frame. Stagger the planting schedule to extend the harvest. Seed packets offer a wealth of information and instructions. As the season warms, add more varieties of plants. Growth can be surprisingly vigorous and supports and structures to grow on offer opportunity for style.
In just a few weeks there will be delicious food to pick from your own garden. Experiment with what grows best for you and always try new selections too. Grow extra produce and share it with friends and neighbors. Have a tea party with cucumber sandwiches in the garden.
Visit our A Gardener’s World webpage, featuring the full gallery of articles and images. Check back each month as we contribute these wonderful features!
Wyndmoor. Evening harvest.
All Photos by Emilie Lapham
Mark Your Calendars: May 22, 2021
Our First Virtual Architectural Hall of Fame Celebration!
Stay tuned for more details!(And if you’d like a trip down memory lane, revisit our 2019 Architectural Hall of Fame Gala on our website!)
And don’t forget to submit your nominations
before February 25!
What’s your favorite treasured place in Chestnut Hill?  We are now inviting nominations for the 2021 Architectural Hall of Fame. Tell us what places in our community you think should be recognized. After nominations close, a shortlist will be announced, and then voting will begin! The winners will be revealed at our Architectural Hall of Fame Celebration on May 22nd.
View all past inductees of the Architectural Hall of Fame on the Conservancy’s website!
Email Lori@CHConservancy.org with your nomination, and why you think it should be recognized.
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  • May 22 – Architectural Hall of Fame Celebration
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Always feel free to contact us with any questions about the Conservancy, our programs and events, or your membership at info@chconservancy.org
Chestnut Hill Conservancy | 8708 Germantown AvenuePhiladelphia, PA 19118