The heavenly, astringent scent of witch hazel is a no-fail anitdote to winter blues. If you get within a block of Waterfall Garden Park in Pioneer Square, you'll catch the fragrance of a magnificent specimen in full, bright yellow bloom.
What a sight, right in the middle of town. Outside the garden walls, all is winter; inside is flower and perfume. This is the magic of witch hazels. I suspect the one blooming in Waterfall Park is Hamalis X intermedia 'Pallida', which is an especially early bloomer, and richly fragrant due to its Chinese witch hazel parentage.
Witch hazels are small trees or large shrubs. They bloom best in full sun, and need good drainage and plenty of room to stretch out to their full, vase-shaped breadth. You have to plant at least one to cut and bring inside in winter; they force easily and the spidery little flowers are best viewed close-up. If you have more space, plant witch hazels as part of a mixed hedgerow, or against an evergreen backdrop, or espalier them against a wall - you can see this treatment, that controls their size and makes the most of the flowers, along the NHS Hall at the Center for Urban Horticulture (3501 NE 41st St.).
In the meantime, the sight and smell of this witch hazel alone is worth a trip down to Waterfall Garden Park, located at 219 2nd Avenue South in Pioneer Square.