Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A January Delight for the Senses

It was at least 5 years ago that I walked into the home of Ottie and Clara Ladd and stopped in my tracks. Lingering in the air, after the front door closed, was the most unusual, but gentle fragrance. WHAT could it be? I asked Ottie? In a large vase were bare looking branches covered with little yellow spidery-looking "flowers". Smell it, he suggested. And sure enough that was where the fragrance was coming from. Come, I'll show you - he offered - and there in his yard was a very large tree covered in the same yellow blossoms. That was my introduction to Chinese witch hazel! I have had a small, struggling tree in my garden since then.
Walking in the rain soaked streets of Seattle on an "art day" outing, last week, with Peter we were delighted to come across a huge Chinese witch hazel tree in full bloom in a tiny urban park. Skies were heavy and grey but walking into Waterfall Park ( on the corner of 2nd and Main Streets in the Pioneer Square area of the city) our senses were overcome. Brilliant yellow blossoms on branches, bare except for where some brown, sculptured-looking leaves remained trapped by twigs of the tree and the perfume ... almost overwhelming.
This easily missed oasis in the city is one I always walk through when in that area and I always walk away refreshed. The park is a donation to the city from the United Parcel Service and there are places to sit and rest, tables on which to place your food, beverage or book. A roaring waterfall in the corner of the park masks the sounds of traffic going by: wonder awaits you when you walk through the portal. Chinese witch hazel blooms in January, sometimes late December, and some of them have the most exquisite perfume. It seems doubly amazing to me that it blooms in the middle of winter and that the blossoms which are small spidery-looking tufts of yellow can give off this amazing fragrance. My photo doesn't do it justice.

The other image is of the waterfall corner of the park, taken when visiting there in October 2009 and autumn colors were at their most spectacular. It's a beautiful and refreshing spot to pause in, anytime of year. If you hurry you might still catch the Chinese witch hazel in bloom ... otherwise it will be a reason for you to make sure you go there next January.

1 comment:

  1. Noted: Chinese witch hazel. Sounds bewitching.