Following the delightful flowering of my small collection of witch hazels this year I decided there was both the space and the location for a few more. The garden where I had bought my first specimens does not seem to exist any more and hopefully their National Collection will have been relocated and not destroyed. Local garden centres only stock unnamed or the more common varieties and a trek around the Birmingham conurbation to get to Ashwood Nurseries was do-able but something we could do without, so mail order was looking to be the best option. The internet came up with Larch Cottage Nurseries, a wonderful looking place in Cumbria (although unfortunately not readily accessible from the M6) with a large selection of witch hazels from which I was already beginning to make a selection, when I suddenly thought about the nursery at Bluebell Arboretum, just a 15-20 minute journey away – and sure enough, they have numerous witch hazels listed although many out of stock so late in the season.
We visited Bluebell Arboretum for the first time last autumn as the leaves were beginning to turn, on a day that began promisingly after several days of rain but quickly changed its mind leaving us cold and very wet and with soaking muddy feet – but a favourable impression of this relatively young arboretum. With several days of warmth and sunshine this week it was a very different matter today, but having learned a lesson last time wellies were very much in order and definitely required for the squelchy conditions. The arboretum had suffered some damage from the recent winds, although nothing major, but the clearing up of fallen branches and twigs had been delayed as the ground was still too wet to get appropriate vehicles on.
Having seen the trees still fully clothed last time it was intriguing to see them fully naked, showing off their buds and bark in many cases, like the Acer x conspicuum ‘Phoenix’ above and the fist size buds of Magnolia ‘Iolanthe’ below, as well as a variety of catkins such as on this unlabelled willow: