Lust List: Corylopsis spicata, Spike winterhazel

Who could resist the golden form of spike winterhazel (Corylopsis spicata) ‘Aurea’ also known as ‘Gold Spring’?

Why do I always fall in love with the wrong guy? Look at those handsome leaves! All boldly goldy-chartreusy, with a blush on the newest. Then look below at the bright pink bud scales (that protect the leaf in the bud). And we’re not even counting the pretty, pendant flowers that are fragrant. In winter!

Heart-shaped leaves with prominent veining are nicely spaced for admiration.

But here’s the thing: I ain’t got no cultcha! That is, I can’t give this high-on-my-lust-list shrub the culture it requires: Mostly moist, slightly acidic, semi-shade. Shade, no problem. Acidity, I can probably deliver, as my garden soil – and I suspect most of Toronto’s sandy bits – tends to be slightly sour. My former lawn used to get mossy, which is an acid indicator. But moist? Sobs. Not me.

I needn’t give you detailed cultural info on Corylopsis spicata ‘Aurea’ because I found this terrific write-up by Louis the Plant Geek. (Great site! I’ll be browsing around there later.) I do know that the species – which is larger, without the golden leaves – is available near Toronto at Lost Horizons, one of the Holy Grails of nurseries for local plant fanatics. One of them is blogger Barry Vanderveer, aka Teza, who includes the Corylopsis spicata species in his 100 must-haves. Good lust-list reading.

Here’s how it looks in a garden. Note the golden glow in the bottom left corner of this North Carolina woodland.
Same amazing garden viewed from the opposite direction; winterhazel at right, with its pink leaves lit up by the sun.
(I’ll write more about the lovely hillside creation of Peter and Jasmin Gentling another time.)


  1. Helen: It was wonderful 'chatting' last night. Glad to see another gardener equally as smitten with Corylopsis as I. Most gardeners are familiar with Hamamelis, which [witch?!?] is a wonderful plant in and of itself, but I far prefer Corylopsis. The golden selection would indeed be a stunning specimen for a woodland garden. If you call early and check with Larry or Gabi, they might just be able to uncover one from the vast inventory! Thanks so much for the shout out as well. I only wish the spacing would work when I am forced to use 'blogger' to create the 'pages.' Have a joyous and wonderful New Year and we are definitely 'on' for a f2f meeting at LH in the coming garden season!

  2. Helen, It might be fine in a not particularly moist spot. This was one of the very first shrubs I planted here when we moved in, and I put it in a moist spot, and it immediately declined and died, I'm pretty sure because it was too moist. Plus, usually a hillside spot (as in your last photo) means good drainage. I'm planning to try it again, in a drier spot.

  3. Helen:
    Come to think of it, mine isn't in a particularly moist spot…. come to think of it, the only irrigation it gets is when I water it, as it is positioned in a rather precarious spot, beneath the overhang of the neighboring house…… throw caution to the wind and get yourself one for 2013!

    1. Barry and Alison, I should have written "moist but well-drained." I will be on the look-out for the gold-leafed version, as it's more compact. I think I have just the spot where it would *look* good, not necessarily do well. The other choice I've been considering for that spot is the golden Aralia 'Sun King' which might be a little fussy.

  4. Hi Helen,

    you can't go wrong with any member of the Hamamelidacae (quite a mouthful!) family, Fothergilla v. Corylopsis v. Hamamelis is a really tough decision for me!

    1. I do have a Fothergilla, planted last spring, so should probably see how she fares before adding another cousin. Have also had my eye on numerous Hamamelis cultivars for some time, especially the one with the similar name to mine, 'Jelena'. Too much love, too little garden.

  5. My name is Dave. I was wondering if I could find this in Southern Ontario anywhere – for purchase?

    1. Dave, I just googled it and came up with Nettlecreek Nursery in the Niagara region. I have no experience with this nursery, but their website does say they carry it and other native shrubs and trees. If you use them, pleas let us know your experience.

You might also like