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 about 20’ to 35’ 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 nearly 2” 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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  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Rosemarie says:

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

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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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  • A beautiful tree but considered unlucky to bring branches indoors.

  • woody says:

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

  • 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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  • Jannis says:

    Beautiful Pictures! I would like to see more.

  • 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

  • Mary says:

    Your writing is a joy (and funny) to read. Thank you!

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