A Winter Hazel Renovation…

Deciduous…well, there is a reason I don’t do as many deciduous posts as conifer, even though they take up maybe 50% of the space in the garden. They do develop slowly. It wasn’t like one could do a quick turnaround on this Corylopsis spicata as is possible with a conifer and have it look snazzy in several hours. Here we need to use time as a real medium, and so it’s taken five years to revisit this tree on the blog…and it will need another five or ten before it’s ready for a show, even though it’s an ancient thing by shrub standards.

With a deciduous tree in any construction phase one does need to look into the future. Time travelers will have an advantage here. If we don’t have a plan, and go willy-nilly at it, we get willy-nilly results ten years down the road. Which is a long time for willy-nilly.

Deciduous trees gain a lot of character later in life. There were some older trunks that we could use, with the interesting, erratic placement that trunk death on old groups have, but this also formed some gaping holes. Corylopsis throws out more suckers from the base than can possibly be used, and one can sit back and choose from them those that are needed, often just in the right spots. And cut off the rest.

Often the older multiple trunked/clump trees that have airily passed through their youth without a thought to death end up being far better in their second or third recreations, as trunk sizes and ages mix and add variety and interest to what was a youthfully monochromatic age-grouping.


The Winter Hazel in 2011 when it first came into the yard. There was no intention to have a splashy modern art backdrop, it was just the studio wall taped and plastered, awaiting paint…


And here we are at the painted backdrop photo… the Winter Hazel in 2016. Progress, inevitably, is slow. Several of the lower, smaller trunks have begun to fill in and gain a bit of age, and the ramification is developing on the older parts as well. And there is a hint of a canopy taking shape. In five years we’ll revisit this one again, and I promise a few more conifer posts while we wait…


  1. Carlene Rhoades says:

    This is one my favorite plants in my garden, partially because of it’s form, but also the showy yellow bloom awakens the garden in February. Just wondering if the bonsai will also bloom.

    • crataegus says:

      Oh yes, this one blooms every year. The large buds on it are the flower buds. Even very young Corylopsis bloom consistently, it’s actually one of the most consistent bloomers of the bonsai world.

  2. It’s growing nicely. It’s true that these kind of trees are slowly than the conifers but in the end the results are amazing and the effort is paid off. Nice bonsai by the way 🙂

  3. Randi says:

    I love the strings of yellow “bell” flowers on the bonsai. Please post a photo if you have one handy. Merry Christmas!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Ann says:

    This is why I prefer deciduous bonsai on the whole. Seems to me they (we) have to work harder on them but the results are generally more stunning (if that’s possible) than conifers.

  5. Colin McGovern says:

    Hi Michael do we treat the hazel as we do maples to form ramification ?
    Thanks Colin

    • crataegus says:

      Colin, being an alternate leaved plant, and one that is not as easy to push two rather than just one extension (there a a number of deciduous trees that are reluctant in this way), they are trickier to ramify. Cutting large exterior leaves in half in late spring does help strengthen the interior shoots, though, and weaken the naturally strong exterior extensions. They ramify about one third to half as fast as a maple.

  6. Chris says:

    Thanks for posting about this species. I have one, also a clump, that I picked up from a club member who grew tired of it. It had suffered some major dieback and I have been working to redevelop some trunk structure. I’ve had it in a pot now for about 4 years and while it grows well and flowers profusely, development is slow. I’m seriously considering planting it into the ground for a few years to see if that speeds up development. Well, I know it will, but then I have to keep an eye on and deal with the roots so I don’t know!

    Please to post a photo in the spring!


  7. davidbennett2 says:

    I see where you said you cut flowers off before they are spent. What is the reasoning behind this and can you be more specific about the timing? I have an old one and trying to find more info.

    • crataegus says:

      Sure—As the flowers begin to wither, small leaves will be apparent near their base. With scissors, cut the stem of the flower just before these leaves.

  8. maryann27 says:

    I was distracted at the nursery and bought a winter hazel instead of a witch hazel, which turned out to be a serendipitous mistake from the photos online. Is zone 10a too warm for flowering at the normal time? I will give it summer protection.

    • crataegus says:

      That’s on the edge of what they like, tending to be more temperate plants. Summer protection is a good idea. Also keep shaded and a tad drier in the winter.

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