Tree Following: My hawthorn in March

There was a distinct lack of trees in this garden when we moved here 18 months ago. There is a beech tree in the back garden, and another in the front, which are lovely but need careful management. There is a beautiful little acer palmatum in the back garden. And there is a hawthorn. I love hawthorns, they are a wonderful herald of Spring with their pure white blossom, and of course they are a magnet for wildlife. When the fence in the front garden blew down not long after we moved in I seriously considered planting a hawthorn hedge. When Lucy started asking people if they were going to follow a tree this year, the obvious thing to do was to pick one of the trees I have planted since moving here, one of the plum trees perhaps, or the trio of birches. But my hawthorn is tucked away down the side of the house and gets very little attention – from me, anyway, the birds love it – so this seemed like a good opportunity to make sure that I tracked its progress through the year and gave it a little dose of the limelight. So here it is:

hawthorn

As you can see, it is planted hard up against the fence (which is falling apart), hemmed in by paving slabs, and does a good job of guarding the path to the compost bins.

hemmed in hawthorn

Not only does it have to contend with the paving slabs for space, it also has an ivy planted right up against it. Was this intentional? I have no idea, there is so much ivy in this garden, it is impossible to tell what was placed deliberately and what has been seeded by the birds or has just suckered from the parent. Somehow this looks deliberate though.

ivy on hawthorn

Whatever the reason, the two are now growing together, tightly bound.

ivy up top

Some of the upper branches are surprisingly free of ivy, but one whole section has it growing up all the way to the very top. I haven’t managed to get a good photo of this yet, but hopefully you can see what I mean.

The whole tree seems to be making a bid for freedom, canting over the fence, looking for all the world as if it is yearning for the company of the willows in the neighbouring park.

leaning hawthorn

Viewed from the other side, from within the park itself, you can see that it would feel right at home in what is a wild corner, thick with brambles and Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum).

hawthorn viewed from the park

It might want to re-think its choice of playfellows though, the willows have a tendency to shed branches in the wind, and we get a lot of wind. The hawthorn is already playing host to one such branch, and others, larger, could cause it quite a lot of damage.

falling branches

The whole silhouette of the tree is bumpy with fat buds.

buds

I can’t wait for it to be smothered in blossom. If you are interested in trees, do pop over to Lucy’s blog, read about her own tree and see which trees other people have been posting about.

I’ve been having a rather tree-themed week, I went to Plas Newydd on my birthday, and got obsessed with the many mature trees they have there, so I will cheat and leave you with a slideshow of some of them. Because all trees are rather wonderful in their own way and deserve to be admired ;-)

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65 Comments


  1. It’s an interesting tree to follow – its location, its interaction with the willows, the old ivy (all its millions of little roots!) and, of course, the blossom when it comes.

    I don’t usually like slide shows but enjoyed this one. Yew bark is extraordinary. Some of the trees in the photographs are awe-inspiring. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in such a tree house?!

    Some of the hawthorn trees have pink blossom and some white round where I live. For most of my life I thought that was the extent of its variety but understand now there a lots of different kinds. How easy it is to tell them apart I don’t know!
    Lucy Corrander recently posted READY, STEADY – AND WE’RE OFF!


    1. Hi Lucy, the Plas Newydd trees were wonderful, so many mature specimens. Yew is hard to beat in the bark stakes. I used to want a pink flowering hawthorn in my garden, ever since I saw one back where I used to live, but now I prefer the purity of the white one. I wonder if the pinks are cultivars and our natives all white? I don’t recall seeing anything other than white growing “in the wild”, so to speak. Thanks so much for organising this, I have spent a very happy hour reading the other posts, it will be fun to get to know these trees through the year, a great diversity in type and age.


  2. I’ll look forward to seeing how your tree gets on during the year, Janet – possibly covered in blossom within the month? Poor little tree stuck down the side of the house, it seems an odd spot to deliberately plant a tree! Do you think someone planted it there or built the fence around it? Or possibly it seeded itself there from the other side? It’s certainly a bit of a mystery!
    Caro recently posted The Cut Flower Patch by Louise Curley. Book review and blog giveaway!


    1. Hi Caro, I am trying to resist looking back at last years’ photos to see when I can expect the blossom, but I imagine by next month’s post it should be out? I agree that it is a distinctly strange place to deliberately plant a hawthorn, I can’t see that it is old enough to have been annexed when the boundaries of the little estate were established, that was back in the early 70’s. The paving appears to be carefully placed round it – a mystery!


  3. We have a hawthorn tree on the plot which must have been deposited by a bird. I spotted it as a baby seedlings and trained it into the tree that it is now.
    Sue@GLAllotments recently posted Inside the greenhouse


    1. How satisfying Sue! I have a baby hawthorn I planted when we moved here, not growing very fast, I may have to move it to where it doesn’t have to compete with the Bear’s Breeches that have suddenly sprung up now that they conifers don’t steal all the water.


  4. belated Birthday greetings Janet, it looks like you had a lovely day out if the slideshow is an example,

    your hawthorn is quite amazing really, it’s roots might be restricted on your side of the fence but they clearly have a good run on the park side of the fence, a bit strange to have planted it so close to the house in such a narrow walkway, Frances
    Island Threads recently posted alnus incana ~ grey alder


    1. Thank you Frances! it was a great trip out. I find the placement of the hawthorn bizarre too, and wonder if it self seeded and was just left to get on with it, although the paving has obviously been carefully placed around it which would argue for some deliberation. Intriguing!


  5. Nice tree to follow Janet – you do wonder if it was deliberately planted or not. It’s good that you are giving your Hawthorn a bit of the limelight – I’m sure it would appreciate it.
    Gorgeous set of pictures too – I could live in that tree house!
    Angie recently posted Just a few flowers


    1. Hi Angie, isn’t the tree house wonderful? I wanted to climb up into it but there were children enjoying it, so I left them to it… I doubt we will ever know whether the hawthorn was deliberately planted there, it would be interesting to approximate its age, that would help, I must do some research.


  6. Hawthorn is such a great choice. It’s one of my favourite trees for all the reasons you mention. You don’t often see such big specimens either, they tend to be managed for hedgerows and kept small so it’ll be interesting to learn more about the bigger trees.
    Kimberkey recently posted Initial photos of my tree


    1. They are usually hedge plants, aren’t they, that or sole windswept specimens contorted by the storms, at least here on Anglesey. I am glad to have one, even if it is in a strange location.


  7. I look forward to seeing what happens to your Hawthorn as we progress through our tree following year. I lived in (South) Wales for 20 years.


    1. Hi Caroline, we only moved here 18 months ago, though I grew up visiting Anglesey for holidays so it feels very familiar. South Wales is beautiful, though more gentle than the north, I used to live in Bristol so it was a regular place to escape to.


  8. Interesting choice of tree as you rarely see them as trees, more as hedgerow plants where there glory is not noticed so much as a single specimen – you are lucky to have a mature one even if it is tucked away.
    Elaine recently posted Following a tree …


    1. Hi Elaine, yes, it is unusual to see one left to be a tree, though there are lots scattered around the coast here, sculpted by the wind, they never grow to more than about 7′ due to the harsh conditions. I rather like my quirky lop sided hawthorn, though I will have to keep it lopsided if I am to be able to get to the compost bins without being attacked by the thorny branches!


  9. Your tree of choice is full of character Janet! Like a heroine that is beset with challenges and yet still making its own way to freedom. It’ll reward you with flowers soon :)
    Mark and Gaz recently posted A Poem Lovely as a Tree


    1. It is characterful, isn’t it! The blossom was spectacular last year, it was one of the reasons I wanted to follow it, to make sure I really enjoyed the blossom.


  10. Oh now your hawthorne looks like a real character Janet. Before I put my specs on I could see a long legged woman on tiptoes leaning over that fence. I look forward to see her journey through the year. Belated good wishes for your birthday. Hope that it was filled with fun, cake and flowers as well as trees! xxx


    1. Hi Anna, that’s the perfect description of her, for all the world as if she is kept prisoner in the garden and yearns for the freedom of the park! I had a lovely birthday thank you, and we are still eating the cake, which is delicious.


    1. Hi Christina, given how tough hawthorns are, I imagine you could grow one quite happily. I am undecided about the ivy, I have been thinking about removing it on and off for about a year, but want to do some more research first. I have also been wondering about attempting to prune it so that it might form an arch over the path, though I fear that could quickly turn into a prickly tunnel!


  11. Old trees have so much history about them, I think they are wonderful in a garden as long as there is plenty of room for them to develop. I think your hawthorn must have been planted by the birds, we have them doing that to us each year, sometimes I let them stay but more often than not , they have to come out. If you want to get rid of the ivy, just saw through the stem as low as possible and it will eventually die off and then it’s much easier to remove.
    Pauline recently posted It’s Hellebore time once more!


    1. Hi Pauline, as I said to Christina, I’ve not yet made my mind up about the ivy, but you are right, that would be the way to get rid of it. I want to believe it was bird-planted, but there again, the paving around it looks so deliberate. Curious, it is a mad place to choose to plant a tree!


  12. Ah the hawthorn! Good choice, looking forward to hearing about it’s adventures in the coming year.


    1. Thanks Gill, I like the fact that I am going to have to take more notice of it this year!


  13. That sure is an interesting looking hawthorn that you’ve chosen to follow.
    I have a small one on the plot that I prune to keep in bounds which has never flowered.
    Thanks for the slide show. xx
    Flighty recently posted Tree following – March 2014


    1. Hi Flighty, what a shame that your hawthorn doesn’t flower – it flowers on the previous year’s and current year’s growth, so as long as you don’t cut it too hard back each spring it should be fine – a neighbour of ours keeps his hawthorn strictly trained into a neat dome, and it flowers prolifically each year. Wonder why yours is unhappy. And it is such lovely blossom too! Maybe this year?


  14. Hi Janet! Happy belated b-day to you. I wanted to leave word about the English Ivy wrapped tightly around your special tree, in case you didn’t already know. English Ivy will eventually suck the life out of your tree, they are so invasive as to be outlawed in forest areas here. The nurseries will not even sell Ivy. I happen to find it attractive so that is occasionally a problem for me, bit I do pull the suckers off the bark of my trees. You may wish to look into it. It would take years, bit I’ve seen Ivy kills trees. Bummer, huh?


    1. Hi Susan, I know ivy can choke trees eventually, but it is also a wonderful resource for wildlife, so I don’t want to automatically remove it. Interesting that your nurseries won’t even sell it, we regularly use it in gardens here, it just needs management, like a lot of other vigorous species – I certainly pull it out by the armful when it arrives in places I don’t want it! I plan to keep a close eye on the ivy-hawthorn balance this year before deciding what to do.


      1. Yes, there have been plenty of times I have gone to nurseries looking for ivy in a pot for an outdoor arrangement. I think you’d have to know the kind of area I live in. We are basically Tree Land! Portland, OR has the largest inner city park in the country…maybe a match for Central Park in New York. It’s a place that does everything for the wildlife. It seems to be just a question of scale–how many trees, how much ivy….that kind of thing. Thanks for getting back with me!
        susan@life-change-compost recently posted La Conner, Washington: Girl Trip


  15. What a lovely slideshow – really enjoyed all those beautiful trees! I love the treehouse too. I bet that was a great way to celebrate your birthday – belated best wishes! I will follow your hawthorn tree with interest – there are loads near us in the hedgerows, but I must admit to overlooking them except for when they flower.
    Cathy recently posted Glorious Helleborus


    1. Hi Cathy, Plas Newydd was wonderful in the late winter sunshine, though we had just missed the snowdrops and were too early for the daffodils! They have magnificent trees, but that tree house stole my heart, isn’t it wonderful!


  16. I love Hawthorn. It usually flowers in May doesn’ t it? Ne’er cast a clout till May be out.’ I’ m not sure what a clout is but I always imagined it meant when the May blossom is out.
    When I was a child we used to eat the new leaves. We called it bread and cheese.
    I shall enjoy watching the progress of your tree.
    Chloris recently posted The Mulberry Tree.


    1. Hi Chloris, I had no idea you could eat hawthorn leaves, I shall have to experiment! I think “clout” refers to your warm winter clothing, a warning that frosts can last well in to May. As for when the blossom should arrive, that’s one of the reasons I want to follow the tree, as I am sure it was early May last year but I have no photos to prove it. Which reminds me, I really need to take more photos of more areas more often, I never seem to have the photos I want when I am trying to refer back.


  17. I hope you had a lovely birthday! I love hawthorns and the hawthorn blossom in May is one of my favourite sights here each year. I was very sad to lose one of ours in the recent storms. The trees in Plas Newydd are wonderful – I would enjoy wandering around there on a birthday, too!
    Wendy recently posted A Bee-Friendly Garden for Spring (2)


    1. Hi Wendy, I had a lovely birthday thank you! Sorry you lost a hawthorn, always sad to lose a tree, and there is a lot of that this year thanks to all those terrible storms. I imagine a lot of branches have been weakened too, and will come down more easily now. Plas Newydd is a wonderful place for tree lovers, I hope to get back there to see the magnolias flowering.


  18. I guess it was planted by birds too – I am not sure what the life expectancy is but much of the hawthorn in our 200+ year old hedge has now expired, leaving mostly holly, and the ivy too. I would leave the ivy, as that probably appeared uninvited as well – and ivy ‘trunks’ are beautiful too. I have noticed more pink hawthorn in the Midlands and certainly round here there seem to be numerous offspring of pink/white varieties, resulting in very very pale pink ones. It was only after seeing the David Hockney exhibition and all the hawthorn in his pictures that I really noticed how the trees were draped in flowers – at first I though he had got it wrong! Lovely to see the trees at Plas Newydd again – and we missed the tree house as there was a school party there at the time.
    Cathy recently posted A Project is Shelved


    1. Hi Cathy, I thought about you and the golfer as I was wandering around Plas Newydd! They lost a lot of trees in the storms over winter, but it still looked amazing, mature trees add such atmposphere. I am torn about the ivy, I do agree that it is beautiful in its own right, but I don’t want to lose the hawthorn either. I might leave it a while though, and just observe the interaction between the two. I remember seeing loads of deep pink hawthorn when I was growing up in the Midlands too, and some in gardens in Bristol. Looking it up online, as you do, it seems there is Crataegus Monogyna, single seeded hawthorn, which is the common native white flowering kind, and Crataegus laevigata, which is actually called the Midlands hawthorn, and although it is common in the rest of Europe it only really grows in the Midlands in the UK! The latter is often pink flowering, though there are white forms too. Isn’t google wonderful, I must put this all in a post some time!


  19. I like how you’ve connected the tree with those growing around it, separated by the fence/road etc. It will be interesting to see how our two Welsh hawthorns compare!
    Natalie recently posted a humble hawthorn tree


    1. Thanks Natalie, I am looking forward to comparing our two hawthorns as well!


  20. What a lovely tree to follow, and nice to see the close connection with the ivy. I must admit I am not a fan of ivy in my own garden, mainly because my neighbours have so much of it so the birds around here drop thousands of seeds every year which ends up in thousands of seedlings I have to pick up from the ground – but I like seeing it under control in other people’s gardens.

    Loved your slideshow, so many great trees :-)
    Helene recently posted Tree following, my Magnolia soulangeana


    1. Hi Helene, I have mixed feelings about ivy myself, I get rid of it by the armfuls where it smothers the ground in this garden, but I love the mature plant when it flowers and then fruits, so keep it on the fences where I can for the birds and for its beauty. Glad you enjoyed the slideshow!


  21. Your slide show is wonderful! What a great homage to trees, and as you mention they all deserve to be admired! My parents had Hawthorn trees in their garden and the surroundings at one of their homes a while back. Great tree to follow!
    PlantPostings recently posted Wordless Wednesday: Shagbarks in March


    1. Glad you enjoyed the slideshow, the trees were so wonderful there, I had to share them. I think hawthorns are wonderful plants, so good for wildlife of all kinds, you just have to make sure you plant them where you won’t get attacked by the spines, so having one on the path to the compost bins is “interesting” at times…


  22. Full appreciated your homage to trees slideshow – can’t get enough of them – belated best wishes for your birthday. I like the way your write about your hawthorn and the fact that it deserves some limelight, instead of being ignored up the side alley. What a different perspective when viewed from the wild side. Am watching mine for flowers to know when I can take off my thermals!
    Laura Bloomsbury recently posted His shoes are purple


    1. Hi Laura, I thought you might enjoy the slideshow – you would love Plas Newydd, it has a real atmosphere thanks to all the mature trees, though they clearly lost a lot over the winter. My hawthorn seems to have two distinct sides to her, I am glad she gets to show her wild side in the park, they are not trees to tame to closely, I think, although at some point I must show the carefully pruned specimen one of my neighbors has, it is a work of art!


  23. You have picked such a lovely tree to follow, one of my other choices was a local hawthorn which my dad remembers from his youth. However due to the location of the hawthorn taking photographs made it a little too hard to follow. I look forward to finding more about your Hawthorn as the months develop.
    Joanne recently posted A February round up


    1. Hi Joanne, what a shame that your hawthorn was too hard to photograph, following a tree that your Dad remembers from his childhood would have been rather special, but I’m sure whatever you pick will be fun. I’ll be interested to see how interesting my hawthorn actually is once it has finished flowering, I suspect it will depend on me being rather better than I normally am at spotting and photographing the wildlife that must enjoy its branches…


  24. I understand why you would choose to follow your hawthorn instead of some of the new trees you’ve planted; I love old trees, too. Love the black and white images of the trees at Plas Newyyd; some of those trunks are magnificent!
    Rose recently posted Ready for a Road Trip?


    1. Hi Rose, we christened the b&w trees Ents, after the tree entities in Lord of the Rings, they certainly looked as if they had faces, and could wander off at any minute! My hawthorn is certainly not lacking in character, I rather admire her bid for freedom, leaning over the fence.


  25. Hawthorn is not only one of the most beautiful trees, it’s also great for wildlife and has something to offer all year. We’re lucky here because they grow wild in the woods surrounding our house.
    Annette recently posted Rinde / Bark


    1. Hi Annette, they are wonderful, aren’t they. There are lots in the hedgerows around here too, and a scattering on the headland too, sculpted by the wind.


  26. I look forward to seeing your hawthorn through the year – a good choice and it will be interesting to see at what time “the May is out” this Spring.
    All the best :)


    1. I confess I am secretly hoping for an early May in recompense for the wet and windy winter!


  27. Ivy has a very bad reputation here, and one well deserved. If it were my tree I’d pull down that vine as soon as possible. Maybe where you are it is not so invasive, but here it is a real scourge.
    Les recently posted Longwood Gardens’ Orchid Extravaganza


    1. Ivy really divides people Les. Since I had so many comments about the ivy on the hawthorn I have been doing more research. Certainly if the host tree is not particularly vigorous then the ivy can swarm it and steal sufficient light that the tree will weaken – not likely to happen with hawthorn. Many people think ivy constricts and splits branches and trunks, but the RHS suggests that ivy merely conceals dead and dying wood and then gets blamed when a tree falls “unexpectedly”. For the moment I plan to just watch it, as ivy is a fantastic wildlife resource and I am well used to seeing trees with ivy growing up them in English woods. I will also carry on ripping out great handfuls of it where it spreads into the garden beds where I don’t want it! But I would hate to be without at least some ivy in my garden, I think it is a beautiful plant in its own right, and it has so very many different forms too.


  28. Janet I don’t see many hawthorns so I look forward to your posts. It has quite a bit of brawn and character. Greta slideshow of some lovely trees. Spring is a great time to view trees in all their splendor like a fabulous statue sculpted by nature.
    Donna@GardensEyeView recently posted The Freedom To Thrive


    1. Hi Donna, I don’t suppose hawthorns are particularly common near you, so I am glad to share mine with you! Sorry to have taken so long to reply to your comment, I have been a little buried.


  29. I am also fond of Hawthorn Janet, even in my small garden I am finding spots for two or three trees. The trees in Plas Newydd are indeed a sight for sore eyes, and at least a couple of them also hosted Ivy.
    Alistair recently posted Growing Heather in a Scottish Garden


    1. Hello Alistair, I am continually amazed at how many trees one can fit in to even a small garden, which is fortunate for us tree lovers, though it is magical to visit somewhere with the room to plant so many large specimens and give them free reign. No dwarfing root stock at Plas Newydd!


  30. Belated Happy Birthday! The way your tree is leaning over the fence made me feel quite sorry for it! Still it’s in a better site than the ones on our lane … the farmer comes every year and chops their tops off!
    Patricia Mason recently posted All go!


    1. An even more belated thank you Patricia! Does your farmer use one of those awful flail things? They always seem to leave lots of jagged edges, though in fairness the hawthorns and blackthorns just shrug it off and grow on.


  31. I love the shape if this tree. Isn’t it incredible how nature shapes itself to fit?
    Lizard100 recently posted You old bag!


    1. I love the survival instinct that means these trees just find a way to flourish.

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