Plant Collector: Corylopsis pauciflora

Corylopsis pauciflora - short flowering season in our climate, but charming

Corylopsis pauciflora – short flowering season in our climate, but charming

This dainty delight is in full bloom now and a good reminder of why I like having a large garden. It is so pretty in flower for a maximum of two weeks in late winter or early spring. For the remaining fifty weeks of the year, it is an anonymous looking shrub. If you only have a small garden, you need plants that work a bit harder than that to justify their space. But for those two weeks when its light, arching branches are clothed in pale lemon witch hazel flowers (it is a member of the witch hazel family, Hamamelidaceae), it has an understated grace and charm. It is also pleasantly scented. When the flowering finishes, saw toothed leaves in dull greeny bronze will take over.

C. pauciflora is one of the more compact species, making maybe 1.5m high by 2m wide. These are hardy, deciduous shrubs from cooler parts of Asia and Japan and are best suited to open woodland areas (in other words, humus rich and semi shaded). We also have C. willmottiae ‘Spring Purple’ which has similar delicate primrose blossom but with purple new growth. It has yet to come into bloom here but it grows to twice the size so it needs a fair bit of space for its 14 days of glory. The flowering period appears to be extended in colder climates.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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