—Marianne Binetti, Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
January 19, 2006
Gardeners, plant collectors, horticulturists, and landscape designers will find a valuable resource in this carefully selected plant directory of best performing winter-flowering shrubs. Readers will find daphnes, viburnums, witch hazels, and camellias to suit every taste and garden situation, as well as information about how to help their choice winter-flowering
Gardeners, plant collectors, horticulturists, and landscape designers will find a valuable resource in this carefully selected plant directory of best performing winter-flowering shrubs. Readers will find daphnes, viburnums, witch hazels, and camellias to suit every taste and garden situation, as well as information about how to help their choice winter-flowering shrubs flourish from November to March. Tips on combining winter-flowering shrubs, using winter sunlight to backlight choice specimens, and getting the right balance of complementary plants complete this practical and inspiring guide. Whether looking to extend a plant collection or create a winter garden, collectors and gardeners alike will delight in the possibilities available for blooms and scents in colder climates.
—Alice Joyce, Booklist, September 1, 2005
"Charles Maries, a British plant explorer who was employed by James Veitch & Sons, Chelsea, London, introduced Hamamelis mollis to cultivation in 1879. He had studied botany under the tutorship of Professor G. Henslow and then for seven years worked for his brother, R. Maries, at his nursery in Lytham, Lancashire. This background meant he was familiar with both Japanese and Chinese plants when he joined the firm of Veitch & Sons, in 1877. Because of this knowledge of Asian plants, Maries was sent to collect interesting plants on behalf of the firm.
He left England in February 1877 for Shanghai, and from there he explored the mountains near Ning po, where Robert Fortune collected. Maries then left for Japan, where he collected many rare plants before returning to China in 1878. In the spring of that year he went to Chin-kiang and Kiu-kiang, where he found Hamamelis mollis in the Lushan Mountains. Maries did not record the precise locality where he collected seed; however, the Veitch Nursery indicated it came from Kiang-su. Maries certainly saw many plants here in flower in the spring, but when returning in the autumn he found most of the vegetation had been cut down, presumably for firewood. He did collect some seed, as in 1879 seed was received by the Veitch Nursery. This was immediately sown but only one plant survived to maturity, in the Coombe Wood Nursery.
This plant was not recognized as Hamamelis mollis for twenty years, when George Nicholson, curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, visited the nursery and recognized it as something different from H. japonica, of which the nursery had thought it to be a form. Nicholson realized it was something different because of an herbarium specimen that Augustine Henry had sent to the botanist Daniel Oliver at Kew, who had named it as a new species, H. mollis, publishing a description in the 1888 issue of Hooker's Icones Plantarum. Nicholson brought the plant to the attention of George Harrow, foreman at the Coombe Wood Nursery, who then grafted as many plants as he could from the original plant. This clone is now known as H. mollis 'Coombe Wood' and was awarded a First Class Certificate by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1918 and an Award of Garden Merit in 1922.
Later both Augustine Henry and E. H. Wilson found Hamamelis mollis in the woods and thickets of Hupeh (now Hubei), thereby extending its known range into west-central China. In 1902 Henry sent seed to Kew, who distributed some to other botanic gardens in Europe. Wilson in Plantae Wilsonianae (Sargent 1913) described it as one of the commonest shrubs in western Hupeh, occurring between 1300 and 2500 m elevation. He found it equally abundant on the Lushan Mountains near Kiukiang, where Maries first found it, noting that it flowered in late March and early April.
Hamamelis mollis introductions to the Arnold Arboretum by E. H. Wilson are reasonably well recorded. The first (under accession number 14691) was seed collected in Hsingshan Hsien in Hupeh Province received at the arboretum on 28 February 1908. The second (accession number 14692) was also of seed but from an unspecified location; this accession was also received at the arboretum in 1908, but the exact date is not given. Between 1914 and 1946, seed, plants, and graft wood was distributed from the Arnold Arboretum to just over 200 individuals and nurseries.
Today, according to Flora Republica Popularis Sinicae (Chang and Yan 1979), the distribution covers a large area in the provinces of Sichuan, Hubei, Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, and Guangxi. Hamamelis mollis is often found in secondary forests or thickets at elevations of 800–1400 m. For such a large distribution, it must be fairly local within its range, as few Western botanists and plant collectors have come across it in the wild in recent times. In a letter I received from Professor Gu Yin of the Nanjing Botanical Garden, she stated that the distribution of Hamamelis mollis is scattered in seven provinces in south-eastern and south-western China. She also stated that significant variations have not yet been found in the wild. This is not borne out, however, by the number of distinct named selections from the early collections and from Japan.
Recent collections and introductions have been made by Mikinori Ogisu, who collected some seedlings under his collection number Ogisu 98037 on 4 June 1998 from Wufeng, south-west Hubei, at an elevation of about 1320 m; several plants are now established in cultivation. The plants were growing as understory shubs on wooded slopes in association with Acer davidii, Corylopsis willmottiae, Cornus japonica var. chinensis, Weigela japonica var. sinica, and a Carpinus species. On 25 April 1999 he observed Hamamelis mollis in flower at Wugang, southern Hunan, at an elevation of about 1350 m; on this occasion they were growing in company with Quercus serrata, Corylopsis sinensis, Castanea seguinii, W. japonica var. sinica, Rhododendron simsii, Hosta ventricosa, and a Lindera species. He reported that all that were flowering were yellow, not showing much variation in depth of colour. There was, however, a fair amount of variation in flower size, some being quite small, and some individuals were less floriferous than others.
This bears out my initial observations on my own plants, raised from seed obtained from Lushan Botanic Garden, Jiangxi Province, and collected locally. These are showing minor variations in foliage characteristics, but as yet there have not been sufficient flowers for detailed assessment to be made. With the degree of variation in the named cultivars described in this chapter, I am sure that a species with such a wide but local distribution must have interesting forms waiting to be discovered.
In an autumn 1991 letter, Dr. Guo Cheng-ze of the Nanyue Arboretum, Hengyang, Hunan, informed me that they had collected seed from a Hamamelis mollis plant, at least fifty years old and growing as a solitary specimen at an elevation of 900 m in Hengshan. He went on to say that it is a rare plant in the locality. From 4 September to 11 October 1994, an American expedition with representatives from the Morris Arboretum, U.S. National Arboretum, Arnold Arboretum, and Longwood Gardens, together with botanists from Nanjing Botanical Garden, botanized and collected in the Wundang Shan region of north-western Hubei. They discovered H. mollis (many plants) growing on a dry shady hillside; most were without seed, but a few had fruited, and seed was collected."
Michael W. Buffin presently advises on 70 historical Gardens and Parks in Southern England for the National Trust. He spent several years as Curator of Living Collections at The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire where he designed the planting for the Winter Garden. He trained at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and spent time at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. He has written many articles for plant journals, contributed sections to books, and lectured in the U.K. and U.S.A. He lives in Hampshire, England, with his wife and two children.
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