It will never be the most attractive plant in the yard. It is not the brightest yellow nor the sweetest smelling. In fact, if Arnold Promise showed its flowers in April or May we wouldn't give it much of a glance. But what Arnold Promise does is to give us yellow blossoms with a lovely smell that really brightens up our January or February days.
Arnold Promise is a witch hazel hybrid, Hamamelis x intermedia so it is not a true native plant. But it thrives in our mountains and gives us so much pleasure with the promise of spring. (Wonder if that's why it's called Promise?)
The blossoms are not as prolific as Forsythia but right now it's the only thing blooming
Our Arnold Promise is about six years old and about eight feet tall. It is not a pretty shrub when it is little and unless a gardener tells you about it, you would not think to buy one. They have bare twigs in the nursery since they will have already blossomed before the nurseries open for the spring. Like an ugly duckling, it grows more attractive as it matures.
Sweet witch hazel fills the air
Arnold Promise is a slow grower and nurseries usually prefer plants easier to propagate. So poor Arnold is not often seen and when he is seen, he tends to be overlooked amidst the more colorful plants.
A true plant for the senses
Witch hazel has been used for centuries in many cultures. The extract from boiling the bark and roots makes an ointment that is soothing for rashes and burns. Barber shops used witch hazel as an astringent after shaves and hair cuts. And the branches of witch hazel are the best ones for dousing (or divining) water.
But never mind the uses for witch hazel. The thing that Arnold Promise delivers to us year after year is the wonderful sweet smell and bright yellow color of spring in the dead of winter. And for that we are indeed grateful.