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Featured Plants Peperomia and Witch Hazel

Peperomia. I am learning so much about houseplants and tropicals since working at Estabrook’s Yarmouth store this winter. The garden center has a huge greenhouse filled with these treasures. One plant that quickly made its way into my home is Peperomia. This tough, no-fuss plant is native to many tropical climates and like orchids, is an epiphyte, growing on wood. There are so many cool species of Peperomia, some resemble rubber plants, others have striking variegated leaves. All are very drought tolerant and should be watered sparingly. They also need little fertilizer, are slow growing and don’t mind being pot bound. There are varieties for a wide range of light condition- from bright to low light. Click here for a helpful article about Peperomia written by Better Homes & Gardens. (I bought one like the one pictured, Peperomia caperata)

Hamamelis Witch Hazel What a welcome sight to see the cheerful flowers of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) illuminate the winter landscape. These wispy, crinkly, ribbon-like flowers are the heralders of spring. Witch hazel, a deciduous shrub, can range in height from around 10’ to 20’ and grows in full sun to part shade (it produces more flowers in full sun especially in colder zones). Most varieties have a lovely vase-shaped habit. Flowers (some of which are fragrant) can be various shades of yellow, copper and red. And witch hazel’s eye-catching show continues in the fall when its leaves turn a brilliant yellow-orange.

Although most witch hazel bloom mid to late winter, American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), native to North America, blooms in late October and early November, providing a dazzling late season display as well as a terrific food source for pollinators. American witch hazel grows wild all around my Kennebunk condominium. Their pale yellow flowers remain on smooth gray branches long after the golden yellow leaves drop.

Some highly popular winter flowering varieties are in the x intermedia group, a cross between Chinese (mollis) and Japanese (japonica) species. ‘Arnold Promise’ (clear yellow flowers), ‘Diane’ (red to copper-red flowers), ‘Jelana’ (copper-orange flowers, pictured) and ‘Pallida’ (soft yellow with deep wine calyxes) are popular varieties.

Most witch hazel are hardy in Zones 5 – 8; American witch hazel is hardy to Zone 3 (thirty to forty degrees below zero). Witch hazel likes acidic, organically rich soils with good drainage. And a few fun tidbits: witch hazel branches are used as divining rods for water sources. And the American witch hazel’s bark is used as a medicinal and cosmetic astringent.