Witch Hazel Happiness

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

In the midst of this “real”winter we are having here in Philadelphia, it would be understandable to think ”No, we’ll never see spring again”. We all know it’s not true, but all the gray can sure make it feel that way sometimes. (Mind you, as I write this it is in the 40’s, raining and some serious thunder just shook my kitchen walls! Mother Nature is a trickster!)

To beat these winter’s almost over blues, may I recommend an aromatherapy treatment? It costs nothing and will boost your spirits instantly!

It’s called…Witch Hazel!

This lovely shrub that we see here in Philly (usually hamamelis x intermedia, a group of hybrids between H. japonica x H. mollis), begins to bloom late January/early February to late March and depending on the variety has an INCREDIBLE scent. Slightly sweet, fresh, a touch of citrus and spice and maybe a pinch of gardenia. Most often seen with varying shades of yellow or orange flowers. I find this plant to be very uplifting. So bright and cheery it just washes those winter blues away from me.

In the few blocks around our office in Washington Square there are three favored spots that I frequent to find this little lovely. Kahn Park at 11th & Pine has 3 or 4 varieties. Locust street close to the 10th street side and the Jefferson campus. And the medicinal garden at Pennsylvania Hospital on 8th & Pine. (Yes, I do stalk the witch hazel!)

When you find them, step in close and inhale deeply… Oh yes, the birds are starting to sing their early spring song…oh look the sun is peeking out from behind the gloom… ahhhh.., smile!

At the moment we are fortunate enough to have several branches of witch hazel gracing our office with it’s fabulous fragrance (thanks Dad!). We have a garden shed/garden musings display in our foyer for the Philadelphia Flower Show window contest and the hazels are doing their thing! Stop by and check it out!

Happy Witch Hazel hunting!

Fun Fact:
The native witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana or common witch hazel blooms in the fall to early winter and can be found all over the Wissahickon park and surrounding areas. It ranges from Canada to Georgia and west to Nebraska and Arkansas. The witch hazel astringent we use as a skin care product is an extract distilled from the young roots and stems of this plant.

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