As I talk to plant lovers about some of their favorite underused woody plants time and again Corylopsis or winterhazel comes up. This Asian genus is related to witchhazel and forms medium to large shrubs typically with blue-green foliage and primrose yellow flowers in very early spring. The group has long been one of my favorites as well and I grow every selection I can get my hands on. One that has really become a cherished plant both here at the JC Raulston Arboretum and in my own home garden is Corylopsis spicata ‘Golden Spring’. It makes a mid-sized shrub with lovely pale yellow flowers in short racemes in late winter to early spring before the foliage emerges. New leaves are bright yellow and become more of a soft chartreuse as the season progresses. ‘Golden Spring’ is best in light shade or morning sun where it will get enough light for good color but not so much that the foliage will burn. It can tolerate more sunlight if kept well hydrated though. This species hails from Japan and forms an important part of the woodland understory in some areas where the early flowers and butter yellow fall color punctuate both ends of the season.
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