Witch Hazel is now blooming

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana,  Hamamelis mollis, and other cultivars) are shrubs, some of which reach 15-20 feet tall, others top out at 4-6 feet.  Witch Hazel may be the most neglected shrub ever — few people plant it.  Witch Hazel adapts to a range of conditions — wet, dry, hot, cold, good soil, bad soil, tender care, neglect — Witch Hazel just keeps plugging along.

Hamamelis mollis (also called “Chinese Witch Hazel”) is the most popular shrub.  The unique property about this shrub is that it blooms in late December through late January — in the dead of winter, after its foliage has died and the branches are bare.  Blooms vary — yellow, yellow-gold, dark orange, and combinations of these colors

Some gardeners plant Witch Hazel mixed with tall grasses so in the winter the garden features the dead, dried grass plumes as a backdrop for the brilliant yellow-gold Witch Hazel blossoms.

The blossoms have a somewhat strong, musky scent that is pleasant and quite noticeable.  On a calm day, you can sense the fragrance when you get within 8-10 feet of the shrub.

The leaves and bark of the North American witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, are used to produce an astringent  as a cooling agent for various uses in traditional medicine,  herbalism  and skincare products.  This astringent was widely used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans and is typically sold in modern pharmacies as witch-hazel water and as semisolid ointments, creams, gels, and salves.  It is commonly used to treat diaper rash in infants.   As an ingredient and a topical agent, witch hazel water is regulated in the United States as an over-the-counter drug for external use only to soothe minor skin irritations.

Here are some links to articles about Witch Hazel.

Here are photos of a Chinese Witch Hazel planted in one lawn in our neighborhood.

Witch hazel 3

Witch Hazel 4

Witch Hazel 5

Association Board of Directors’ meeting announced

The Potomac Bay Estates Property Owners’ Association (PBE POA) Board of Directors will meet:

  • Friday, January 17, 2020

  • 1:00 PM

  •  4142 Newman’s Neck Road (Williams residence)

Board meetings are open to all Association members.  If you plan to attend, please notify us by email to potomacbaypoa@hotmail.com.

Here is a copy of the agenda for the January 17 meeting.  _v.03_0117-2020 Agenda PBE BOD_0106


Mark your calendars for these upcoming events.

  • Association annual meeting:  Saturday, April 18
  • Spring picnic:  Sunday, May 24




Tundra swans have returned for the winter

In the winter our neighborhood is home to one or more migrant flocks of Tundra Swans that arrive usually in early December and stay with us until March.

A group of eight swans was spotted on the Potomac River at the east end of our neighborhood on Tuesday, December 24.

In the winter Presley Creek on the eastern end of our neighborhood is home to large flocks of Canada Geese and smaller groups of Tundra Swans (although in 2017 we counted as many as 80 swans at one time).  The geese spend the day foraging in nearby fields while the swans spend most of the day in the Potomac, feeding on aquatic plants; they can be seen occasionally in nearby fields.  Around sunset the geese and swans return to Presley Creek for the night.  The geese are VERY loud and their honking can be heard all over the neighborhood, even all night; the swans are very quiet and can be heard only if they are not in the company of the geese, who drown them out.

In case you are not familiar with the Tundra Swan, here is more information about them.

This photo was taken in 2017


This article is from the National Geographic

About the Tundra Swan

The snowy white tundra swan breeds in the Arctic and migrates many miles to winter on North America’s Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, bays, and lakes.


Range and Population

The eastern population frequents the Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina, while the western population typically winters in California. These animals fly some 3,725 miles round-trip between their distant habitats, and make the daunting journey twice each year. Tundra swan subspecies also winter in Europe and Asia.


Tundra swans are often confused with trumpeter swans, and indeed the two species are very similar in appearance. They are most easily distinguished by their calls.



Tundra swans winter on the water and sleep afloat. They are strong and speedy swimmers that take to the air with a running start, clattering across the water’s surface with wings beating. In flight, the rhythmic flapping of the swan’s wings produces a tone that once earned it the name “whistling swan.”


These large birds feed by dipping their heads underwater to pluck aquatic plants, tubers, and roots. They also eat shellfish and are developing an increasing taste for grains and corn found in farmland areas.



Believed to mate for life, these swans actually pair up for nearly an entire year before breeding. Though in their winter grounds they gather in huge flocks, they breed as solitary pairs spread out across the tundra. Each couple defends a territory of about three-fourths square miles.


The bird’s tundra nests are large stick dwellings lined with moss and grasses. Ideally, they are situated close to a pond or other water source.


Females typically lay about four eggs and incubate them for 32 days while males guard the nest. Young chicks are protected from cold and predators, including swarms of voracious Arctic mosquitoes. Tundra swans can be nasty when aroused, and the birds may even be able to fend off predators like foxes and jaegers.


Despite the tundra swan’s dedicated efforts, its entire breeding season is subject to the whims of the Arctic climate. An early freeze or late spring may cause significant reproductive problems. Yet populations are stable, and the birds are managed and hunted for sport in some locales.


More information

Here is an article on the Cornell University Ornithology Lab website.

This article is from the Audubon Field Guide.




Property assessment message from POA President Dave Williams

On Thursday, December 5th , I met with members of the Northumberland County Reassessment Office, to request that my 2019 land and Bldg/Improvement value NOT be reduced in 2020.

My presentation centered around improvements to the property that were not taken into account based on an exterior walk around.  My points were fully considered and a revised Reassessment value will be mailed in about 4 to 6 weeks.

I learned that Northumberland County has approximately 19,000 taxable properties. 

The properties purchased or sold in the last six years have gone down in value ~ 6%.

Arguments for tax value increase or decrease should include a rationale which will be fully considered.

The absence of locally available jobs was cited as the primary reason for property devaluation.

Property in the other parts of Virginia have also experienced increases and decreased.

The highest increases have been in the Orange area near Charlottesville, by approx. ~ 15%.

I hope that you found this information helpful.  Call 804.453.0712, to file an appeal before Dec 11, 2019.

David L. Williams, President PBE-POA

Severe weather update: 10:00 PM, Friday, Nov 15

The National Weather Service office in Wakefield, VA, has issued an updated severe weather briefing for our area for the period Friday night, Nov 15, through Monday, Nov 18.

The most severe storm effects will be felt in the lower Chesapeake Bay and on the Atlantic Ocean side of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  Our neighborhood will feel some storm effects from late Friday night, Nov 15, through Monday, Nov 18.

  • 0.1″ to 0.25″ of rain
  • Winds gusting between 30-35 MPH, mostly on Saturday, Nov 16
  • Minor flooding in low-lying coastal areas

Here is a link to the full NWS severe weather briefing:   20191115_0558AM

Possible severe weather: Friday night, Nov 15, through Monday morning, Nov 18

The National Weather Service office in Wakefield, VA, has issued a severe weather warning for the southern Chesapeake Bay including the Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach area, along the VA-NC border.  Our neighborhood is on the far edge of the warning area with only minor effects forecast for us.  However, the storm track can change.  We will post updates as necessary.

This link will take you to a detailed weather briefing released by the NWS on Thursday morning, Nov 14.  20191114_6AM

The NWS briefing is a detailed product featuring several maps and forecasts.

According to the current forecast, our neighborhood will not be in the area most affected by the storm.  We can expect:

  • Stormy conditions from Friday night, Nov 15, through Monday morning, Nov 18.
  • 0.1 inch of rain
  • Wind gusts to 30-35 MPH, with the highest gusts expected on Saturday, decreasing by Saturday night