I hadn't noticed that it was blooming, myself. But a little while ago I went out and looked, armed with the camera. I picked my way down the soggy path behind the house, trying not to get my feet tangled in Mr. Wren's wisteria prunings, which he left for picking up later. And then, there she was, illuminated by the setting sun: Witch Hazel.
We actually have two witch hazel shrubs. We planted them beneath the master bedroom window when we first moved into this house. Now they dominate the window, but witch hazels aren't at all dense with foliage. Instead, the long, whippy branches have big leaves every six inches or so along, alternating sides. In summer, they're thick and greeny-yellow and leathery. In the fall they slowly, slowly turn brittle and brown.
In winter, the leaves still cling to the branches, shriveled and rattling in the breeze. But then the tiny buds open, right in the coldest part of the year. The flowers are no bigger around than, say, a quarter, but they're all over both shrubs, tiny wild yellow mopheads, like scraggly pom-poms. They've no scent, just brilliant color. And, I discovered today, the local honeybees are quite fond of them.
I wanted witch hazel because of the winter-blooming flowers. But this is the first year -- 11 years after they were planted -- that they've had so many. It may be too warm around here for me these days, and too aggravatingly nice, but my witch hazels lift my spirits and remind me that winter isn't quite over yet.