Some plants open their flowers in response to the weather; others depend on day length. And while many witch hazels seem to bloom in the first mild spell of winter, mine always waits until the second week of January, regardless of the weather.
I planted Hamamelis mollis ‘Pallida’ nearly thirty years ago ( it has now migrated to H. x intermedia ‘Pallida’), since when it has formed a small bush about four feet high and six across. A bit of a passenger for much of the year, it comes into its own in mid winter when its display is visible at the far end of the garden.
Although there are varieties with bright yellow flowers, orange, or even red, I much prefer this one, planted against a dark background, where it stands out against the gloom. How would you achieve this with a variety such as ‘Jelena’ with deep orange blooms? A glaucous conifer might set it off, although I have never seen it used this way.
Often planted in dappled shade, witch hazels will also thrive in full sun as long as the soil does not dry out. They do not like to be waterlogged, nor to be planted too deeply, although a light mulch of well rotted compost in spring is welcome. Give them room to grow as they do not respond well to pruning, being reluctant to break from cuts.
With mild weather for much of the UK last autumn, many witch hazels came into flower early, but my ‘Pallida’ faithfully waited until the second week of January to start its display.