Plant of the Week: Jelena Witch Hazel

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

The winter landscape on The High Line is often characterized as architectural. Bare stems and trees form living sculptures winding through the park. Our gardeners do not cut back the perennials, instead we extend this winter feature until mid-March. One such architectural plant that also provides winter blooms and fragrance is Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena.'

The genus name Hamamelis comes from the Greek words Hama meaning 'at the same time' and melon meaning 'apple' or 'fruit' which relate to fruit and flowers appearing on the shrub at the same time. The specific epithet intermedia comes from the Latin inter meaning 'between' and medius meaning 'middle,' in reference to this hybrid having characteristics between the parent species Chinese and Japanese witch hazel.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' is widely regarded as one of the best all-around cultivars for its perfect vase-shaped structure, fragrant copper flowers, and brilliant fall color. The deciduous shrub slowly grows to 13 feet high and wide. The intricately colored blooms are best viewed when backlit by the low winter sun. A close inspection of the flowers reveal that the copper color is actually a delicate blend of yellow petal tips leading to orange centers and ending in a maroon calyx.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' is generally known for its medicinal use in lotions for treating bruises and insect bites, but it may also be used to make rafts, baskets, and shelves.

Jelena witch hazels will thrive in moist, rich, well-drained, slightly acidic soils, in zones 5-8. They tolerate shade, but will produce more flowers in full sun. Most plants are grafted on Hamamelis virginiana understock and need root suckers cut off annually to keep them from outcompeting the cultivar.

On the High Line between Gansevoort and West 14th Street, and between West 20th and 22nd Street

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

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