This is the time of year that I can't help but inspect planters in front of buildings and the mulched beds in parks. I'm eager to see further evidence that yes, winter is drawing to a close. (Honestly, I don't know how people can live in a climate any colder than NYC.)
At Jefferson Market Garden, I spied my first witch hazel of 2009, as well as a daffodil emerging from the ground.
I have posted a photo of the witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) blossom before, but had not spent much time discussing it. Hamamelis literally means "together with fruit" because this plant has its flower, fruit and next year's bud displayed on the stem all at the same time.
The specmens at the Jefferson Market garden are two popular cultivars of Hamamelis x. intermedia, though native species include vernalis and virginiana. The yellow-flowering shrub is called 'Arnold's Promise' and the red plant behind it is most likely 'Ruby Glow'.
The leaves and bark of witch hazel has long been used as an astringent, and still can be purchased at drug stores as a salve.
PS: The building in the background is the Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library. In the 19th century, the building was a courthouse and the garden now exists where a jail once was. In the 1930's the jail was demolished and a women's house of detention was built in its place. Apparently a favorite pastime of the women jailed there included hurling curses and obscenities at passersby on 6th Avenue. In 1974, the structure was demolished and the garden was built in its place.