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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  • 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!

  • Germany Sylt says:

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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

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