Other Plants, Shrubs, Trees and Vines
Outside of the special gardens, container plantings and window boxes, there are many other interesting species of plant life throughout the 19-acres of Mystic Seaport. Look for these varieties as you stroll the grounds and enjoy all there is to see and do.
Witch hazel, Hamamelis xintermedia 'Arnold Promise' is located after the Planetarium near the staff and volunteer gate. From mid-February to late March this shrub greets the visitors, staff, volunteers and Spring with showy fragrant blooms. In the event of a less windy spring their blooms may last until April. Each flower has four, bright yellow, strappy petals that emerge on the leafless stems, creating a pointillist texture.
'Arnold Promise' is one of the most popular cultivars of the Hamamelis japonica and H. mollis hybrid. This cultivar prefers moist, organic, acidic, well-drained soil and can tolerate part shade; however, for dense blooms full sun is best. The habit of this shrub is vase-like and upright. Pruning is necessary to control size in small formal areas; the maximum height for this cultivar is 20 feet.
Along with a marvelous winter bloom, the 'Arnold Promise' cultivar delights with warm fall colors. In October the leaves turn amber, and then become cinnamon with a coral tint as winter approaches. Introducing the colors and aromas of Spring and Fall, our witch hazel is a wonderful specimen for the garden and high traffic area.
For a more naturalized garden plant the native Hamamelis virginiana or Hamamelis vernalis. Their attractive branching structure and spreading habit add interest throughout the seasons. Both of the North American witch hazel species have long roots in American history. The shrub's bark has a high tannin content, which is used to make an astringent. Native Americans from Nova Scotia to Texas used common witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana to treat an array of ailments, from bee stings to internal bleeding.
Of local interest in nearby Essex, Ct., the E. E. Dickinson Witch Hazel Company was one of only two major companies to distill and produce witch hazel products in the United States. Company product information indicated that early settlers in CT were introduced to the benefits of Witch Hazel by local Native Americans. With a rich history and outstanding bloom, witch hazel is surely an excellent plant for the New England garden.
Hellebores have all the right characteristics to earn the 'best winter flower' at the Seaport. Found in the Memorial Garden, our two species welcome the first garden viewers. Hellebores' little cup-like flowers rise from the ground against their evergreen foliage. One species imitates the snow with white droopy flowers as the other adds color to the border.
Helleborous niger, Christmas rose, has clusters of snowy white flowers which emerge from their evergreen basal growth. Their flowers are delicate, an inch in width with five showy petals. This plant prefers partial to full shade and moist, humus-rich soil. Growing 1 ½ feet tall, this perennial can be used for cut flowers and is a wonderful plant for borders and walkways. The popularity of Christmas rose began in the late 1870's in the Northeast, with the new energy of ornamental gardening, and has increased substantially in the more recent years.
Our other species, Helleborous orientalis, Lenten Rose, brings color into the garden's border. A larger plant, Lenten Rose has 3"- 4" flowers, their deep plum color with spotted sepals stand out in the snowy background. This perennial grows best in dense shade and moist well-drained soils. It's spreading habit and handsome evergreen leaves give year round interest and also makes for an exceptional groundcover for a shady area. Although all plant parts are poisonous, the texture and color of the leaves and flowers allow this plant to be a beauty in the border.