A preview of Roofscape Magazine's next cover, with background.
Some time in the snows of dreary February the witch-hazel blooms. Here's the story, according to science and Wikipedia.
They are deciduous shrubs or (rarely) small trees growing to 3-8 m tall, rarely to 12 m tall. The leaves are alternately arranged, oval, 4-16 cm long and 3-11 cm broad, with a smooth or wavy margin. The horticultural name means 'together with fruit;' its fruit, flowers, and next year's leaf buds all appear on the branch simultaneously, a rarity among trees. The flowers are sometimes produced on the leafless stems in winter, thus one alternative name for the plant, "Winterbloom". Each flower has four slender strap-shaped petals 1-2 cm long, pale to dark yellow, orange, or red. The fruit is a two-part capsule 1 cm long, containing a single 5 mm glossy black seed in each of the two parts; the capsule splits explosively at maturity in the autumn about 8 months after flowering, ejecting the seeds with sufficient force to fly for distances of up to 10 m, thus another alternative name "Snapping Hazel".
The name Witch has its origins in Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning "pliant" or "bendable". Hazel is derived from the use of the twigs as divining rods, just as hazel twigs were used in England.
The witch-hazel in the photograph, shown under a mantle of fresh snow, flanks the main entrance to the Fenway Victory Gardens off Park Drive in Boston. I went by there yesterday and it's not yet in bloom. When it is it's stunning and the scent is powerful.