May 7th, 2008
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 sorts 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.