Season of the Witch

Halloween’s behind us, but it’s not too late to feature one of Awbury’s most fragrant plants.

It may not be the most recognized or the showiest plant, but witch hazel’s usefulness in a garden lasts so much longer than a fleeting moment. The plant has a vase form with dense branches angling upward and outward about fifteen feet. From April through November the branches display leaves toward the upper third of the plant, showing off the lower branches as well as anything planted underneath.

The leaves of the native witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, turn bright yellow in the fall, about the same time that it blooms. The yellow flowers are ribbon-like and fill the air with a fresh scent whose location is hard to pinpoint. Anyone familiar with witch hazel skin astringent will recognize the warm scent. There are many types of witch hazel but all bloom in either late fall or late winter creating a wonderful display at a time when it is least expected.

There are witch hazels throughout Awbury Arboretum’s landscape. A key location to visit both November and March blooms is in the Scattergood Memorial Witch Hazel Garden at the top of the meadow. Here you can take in the quiet landscape while resting on a scenic bench. If you visit here frequently, you will be able to see the various colors of the different witch hazels displayed in the garden. Once you experience this shrub you will be more likely to spot it all around you; some of the Arboretum’s are estimated to be 100 years old or more!

Calendar Alert! Upcoming Awbury events

Saturday, December 7: Holiday Open House & Greens Sale (1-4PM)
Come enjoy FREE light refreshments, holiday music, marshmallow roasting around Awbury’s fire pit, cookie decorating, and more as you shop for your holiday greens and gifts.

Sunday, December 8: Year of Natural Fibers Celebration Dinner (5-8PM)
Awbury Arboretum’s theme for 2019 has been Natural Fibers. They have offered a variety of workshops and lectures (in partnership with the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers) to engage the community in learning about fibers and the plants and animals that provide them.

The culminating event for this year is a five-course dinner prepared by Weavers Way Co-op Executive Chef Bonnie Shuman with Speaker Barbara Parman presenting “Early Textile Production in Northwest Philadelphia.” Barbara is a member of the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers. She will present a 25-minute talk detailing the rapid rise of the textile industry in both Germantown and Manayunk during the 19th century, emphasizing the types of weaving and fibers used. There will be slide and video presentations along with numerous hands-on displays and resource guides for local history lovers. Tix: $50. BYOB. Click here for more info and to see the menu.

About Awbury
Awbury Arboretum (the former Cope family estate) transports visitors from city streets into a country retreat that is the largest remaining oasis of open space in Germantown. Trails weave through 55 acres landscaped in the English romantic style, with open meadows, ponds, woods and rolling hills. The Copes lent their Quaker sense of aesthetics to this world-class arboretum; in 1870, they hired William Saunders, designer of the Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., to bring their vision to fruition. Today, Awbury’s mission is to preserve and interpret their historic house and landscape, in order to connect the community with nature and history. Awbury is free and open to the public every day (dawn til dusk). More info at

About Karen Flick 10 Articles
Karen is Awbury's Landscape Manager. She is a former intern at the arboretum and a Temple University graduate with degrees in psychology and horticulture.

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