Against winter’s bleak grey backdrop witch hazel is a welcome site in any garden. Witch hazel belongs in the genus Hamamelis and originate from North America, Asia, Japan and China. These stars of the show bloom when everything else is dull and dormant. They come in a range of dazzling colours from red and orange to bright sulphur yellow. Some varieties of this hardy shrub are fragrant and sweet in the cold winter air. Cut a few short stems and place in a vase to scent your home. The leaves typically turn red and yellow in the fall and are green during the growing season. The vast majority of Hamamelis are slow growing but will eventually reach around 3.5metres. If you need to prune only do so lightly being careful not to remove too much material. The ideal growing conditions are in a humus rich soil in full sun or partial shade. Try to incorporate organic matter withwell-rotted manure or compost into your soil. When locating them in your garden try grouping them in a sheltered position near a door or wall to contain the sweet fragrance. Native American Indians used the inner bark of the stem to ease bleeding and people today still use the oil to reduce bruising. They will bring a smile to your face on the coldest and dullest winter day and you will know that Spring is not far away.