One of the prettiest late-winter flowering shrubs is corylopsis and C. pauciflora, from Japan and Taiwan, is one of the nicest. The name means ‘like a hazel’ and, although you really wouldn’t guess it, this elegant shrub is in the hamamelis (witch hazel) family. Now I know that corylopsis is not the easiest of words to say, though once you have a go it is actually a pleasant experience.
I hang my head in sorrow when I see unnecessary and made up common names, rather like I do when the BBC finds another inane procedure to turn into a ‘**** off’ (please BBC, just because baking worked it does not mean that knitting, wallpapering or ironing will).
So this shrub is also called buttercup witchhazel (by the RHS – shame on you), and buttercup winterhazel. Why? No one ever called them that.
My photos will not convince you to grow it either because the maddening winds we have recently had have blown virtually all the petals off the flowers! But when in full bloom the spindly, spreading, twigs support hundreds of very short, pendent clusters of two or three small, pale yellow, sweetly fragrant blooms that are, in their abundance, quite showy. It will reach about 1.5m high and 2m across and prefers a slightly acidic soil that is moist and rich in humus but it is not too fussy: just don’t plant it in sunbaked, parched clay.
It is generally pretty hardy and the flowers usually open in March. Once it is established and a decent size you can underplant it with winter heathers, spring bulbs, bergenia or cyclamen. After flowering the foliage is dainty and elegant and it turns yellow in autumn before it falls.