I think trees should pull their own weight in the gar­den, don’t you?

I mean, it’s all well and good to be tall and green, pro­vid­ing all shorts of cool­ing shade and places for the bugs and birds. But if you can do tricks, like make berries and flow­ers to brighten things up a bit, you’re a really spe­cial tree, yes?


That’s why I like the Win­ter King Hawthorn. Many peo­ple have never heard of these trees. In fact, two sea­sons out of the year, in par­tic­u­lar, the Fed Ex and UPS dri­vers, the elec­tric com­pany meter reader and who­ever else wan­ders down our long dri­ve­way ask me what kind of trees these are. That’s because in those two sea­sons, the trees are putting on a show to grab your attention.

They are Win­ter King Hawthorns.


In the spring, the trees are cov­ered in clus­ters of white flow­ers. In the fall, red berries hang on for weeks after the leaves have dropped, look­ing like tiny Christ­mas orna­ments. They hang there until the birds devour them. This year, it was the Evening Gros­beaks that cleaned off the trees–and made my day!


I had never heard of the Win­ter King Hawthorn before these trees arrived in my life. Six years ago I was a novice gar­dener and was hard-pressed to tell you if a tree was an oak or maple. But an enter­pris­ing and charm­ing nurs­ery­man con­vinced me that I needed not one, not two, but TWENTY of these trees, since they only grow to about20’to35’in height. He showed me a very unim­pres­sive spec­i­men in the nurs­ery but dragged out books filled with pic­tures of flow­er­ing and berried trees to con­vince me to pull out my checkbook.

The first cou­ple of years they after they were planted I won­dered if they would even sur­vive in the not very hos­pitable envi­ron­ment next to the driveway—hard clay soil, com­pet­ing trees, a hay­field and a not very care­ful equip­ment dri­ver of the hay har­vest­ing equip­ment were all hazards.

Then we had sum­mers with drought. Since the hoses can’t pos­si­bly reach that far and I don’t have a water tank on my farm pickup truck, I have shut­tled bucket after bucket after bucket of water up and down the dri­ve­way to keep them alive.(I did not go to the gym those days, but checked off both car­dio AND weightlift­ing in my daily diary.)

Now, six years later, only two of the trees have gone to the great for­est in the sky. Both were vic­tims of Rudy, our tobacco chew­ing farmer who har­vests the hay.

Now that I know the trees will, indeed, sur­vive, I feel more com­fort­able clip­ping a few branches to bring indoors. Today’s arrange­ment includes a small South­ern Mag­no­lia branch that was hang­ing too low and always got caught in my mower.


As beau­ti­ful and use­ful as these trees are—creating flow­ers and yummy berries for the birds—they can be dan­ger­ous. They put the “thorn” in “Hawthorn.” These thorns are nearly2”long and are as sharp as nee­dles. Flower arrang­ing with these babies is not a feat for the faint of heart.


But oh, what a sight. It’s truly a king of trees.

Inter­ested in Win­ter King Hawthorns? Check out the fab­u­lous birds they attract here.

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18 Responses to “Not Just a King in Winter — The Winter King Hawthorn”

  1. Carol, May Dreams Gardens Says:

    Very nice write up on the Hawthorns, they are good trees, and rel­a­tively low main­te­nance, unless, as you noted, you have to tan­gle with these thorns.

    Your dri­ve­way must be quite long to have twenty trees grow­ing along it.

    Yes, a very long dri­ve­way. We actu­ally use it as a run­ning track!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  2. Layanee Says:

    Well, I don’t have one of the hawthornes but I do like them. Flow­ers and fruit and a few thorns! Very pretty.

    Laya­nee, it’s not too late. You still have some room left, don’t you?

    Robin at Bumblebee

  3. Gail Says:

    I love these trees even if they have BIG thorns, although I haven’t room for them. I admire them in other yards. It would be mar­velous to see the Gros­beaks feeding.


    I’ll be wait­ing for fall to see if the Gros­beaks come back. They were only here for a cou­ple of days before they moved on, but it was an excit­ing cou­ple of days.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  4. RuthieJ Says:

    Hi Robin,
    Lovely hawthorn trees! Do the blos­soms have a fra­grance?
    I have one spindly Hawthorn (Crim­son Cloud) that has the most beau­ti­ful red flow­ers in the spring, but is not thriv­ing in my hard clay soil.

    No fra­grance with these flow­ers, Ruthie. But Harry and I were just say­ing the other day that it’s almost time for the hon­ey­suckle. Now THAT’S a glo­ri­ous smell!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  5. Christine Says:

    I agree, those are beau­ti­ful. I guess the thorns don’t keep the birds away, then?

    Well, it doesn’t seem so! Your Lady Banks roses are on the way! I’ll email you!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  6. Rosemarie Says:

    I’ve never seen a hawthorn but that thorn has been burned on my brain — OUCH!

  7. ewa Says:

    the great for­est in the sky’ — LOL, you make my day :)

    Robin, even if you would be just shop­ping in Switzer­land, I still can’t under­stand what unjus­tice to men hap­pened just by lawn moving…

  8. jodi Says:

    Never enough hawthorns, are there? My favourite is Paul’s Scar­let, which I planted here three years ago and is start­ing to take hold nicely.

  9. Annie in Austin Says:

    Your hawthorns are beau­ti­ful, Robin. We used to admire a large group­ing at the Chicago Botan­i­cal Gar­dens and were once told that Native Amer­i­cans used the thorns sort of like nee­dles, to punch holes for lac­ing pieces of leather together.
    I don’t know if it’s true but the story stuck in my mind!

    Annie at the Trans­plantable Rose

  10. Diana Says:

    Wow. Your hawthorns are lovely and you must just be so proud to see the lin­ing the road so nicely, hav­ing planted them when you were a novice. And as for the votes blam­ing you for the grass, I say, the heck with ‘em!

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  13. Flower arranging school Says:

    A beau­ti­ful tree but con­sid­ered unlucky to bring branches indoors.

  14. woody Says:

    I thought the Win­ter King Hawthorn had no thorns or smaller thorns. Are you sure your trees are not Wash­ing­ton Hawthorns.

  15. Mary Says:

    Hi! Found your blog when search­ing for nice images of Win­ter King Hawthorns to show to a friend — con­grats! Your pho­tos were the BEST on the *entire* inter­net! My hus­band and I planted a WKH in our front yard last fall to replace an ail­ing maple. So far, so good. We live in a sim­i­lar cli­mate to yours, Tide­wa­ter, VA; after see­ing your pics, I’m look­ing for­ward to watch­ing our WKH grow. :)

    BTW, awe­some blog .. I’ll be back!

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  17. Jannis Says:

    Beau­ti­ful Pic­tures! I would like to see more.

  18. Nancy Says:


    I live in John­son City, TN and LOVE the looks of this tree. Thank you for all the infor­ma­tion and pic­tures. One ques­tion, how long do the flow­ers last and when do they start to bloom? Thanks! Nancy