I’ve been keeping a close eye on the hawthorn for the past few days, because there was a mass of tightly furled white buds all over the tree:

hawthorn buds

Finally, yesterday, the first blossom unfurled.

hawthorn blossom

I think this was the first time I had really realised that unlike blackthorn blossom, the center of the flowers is more green than yellow, and the anthers are pink, where on blackthorn, again, they are yellow.

close-up of hawthorn blossom

The effect is more subtle, somehow, but very pretty. In a few days, if we have some warmer weather again, the whole tree will be a mass of white blossom, but for the moment there is just a slight haze. Beautiful.

Hawthorn starting to look white with blossom

On the park side, it is now impossible to get anywhere near my tree, the stand of willows and lone birch is now thick with brambles and alexanders. If you squint, you can just make out its shape against the house wall.

view of hawthorn from the park

I’m still fascinated by the fact that we don’t seem to get cow parsely on the Island, not this far from the mainland anyway, but Alexanders are everywhere – including in my garden, which I don’t actually mind in certain places, as they flowers are beautiful. More green than white, but very spring-like, for all that.

alexander flower

I thought you might be interested to see the effect of the extra shelter my hawthorn gets from the house wall, it has lots of blossom out, but just 100 yards away, outside a neighbour’s house, is another hawthorn with no sign of blossom at all as yet.

Exposed hawthorn sculpted by the wind with no blossom yet

You can see how the tree has been sculpted by the wind, though even this is a good 3 foot taller than those that stand on the cliff tops, they never grow to more than 6 foot, and are even more dramatically sculpted. Of course this tree is also shaped by the hand of man, in this case D, my neighbor. It might not have any blossom yet, but this doesn’t bother the blackbirds!

blackbird in hawthorn

Hmmm, I’m just wondering whether actually D pruned all the potential blossom off last year, although I am sure it flowers on new wood, I have small shoots coming out of the trunk that weren’t there last year and they have flower buds…

So that’s my hawthorn in May, I’m off to check out what is happening to other people’s trees, lots of people are tree-following this year, and their posts give a fascinating window onto a wide variety of arboreal elegance, I thoroughly recommend visiting Lucy’s blog and checking some of the posts out.

44 thoughts on “Tree Following: My Hawthorn in May

  1. Well Janet, what a good choice for your ‘tree following’. It has really encouraged me to look closely at a tree I almost take for granted, and don’t really ‘see’ any more. The flowers are so much more beautiful and complex than I had thought. I tried to think of an unusual tree, and chose my fig tree eventually, thinking that it would make for an interesting post, but how much more thought provoking it is, to examine a tree which is always around us. I love the way the wind has sculpted it too.

    1. Hi Jane, one of the reasons I chose my hawthorn was because I realised I never really look at it properly, and now I do, in fact I have become obsessed! One of the things I love about this meme is that there is such a huge variety of trees being followed, and for instance I am delighted to be reading about a fig because I have been thinking about planting one against the house wall.

  2. Hi Janet,

    I love Hawthorn; nothing speaks spring to me more than the brilliant new leaves of Hawthorns – especially when backlit by the sun! I’m sort of allowing my Hawthorns to grow, I just wish they were further up the hedge so to provide some shade from the sun in summer. As it is, because they’re too close to the house they won’t really help, so I’ve always been somewhat undecided whether to cut them along with the hedge or allow them to grow. Now with new neighbours on the side the Hawthorns are on, I’m allowing to grow to provide some privacy from their landing window which looks out onto my garden.

    1. I’m glad you are letting your hawthorns play at being tree-like Liz, I think most get cut as hedges, I love seeing them big and bold. I agree about the new leaves, plus the delight of the early blossom, though I have to admit that my favourite new leaves are birch leaves, they are such a bright green. Oh dear, and now I feel I should go and apologise to my hawthorn!

  3. The aged character of your Hawthorn has softened now its in full leaf. Close ups of its leaves and blooms, it looks so ornamental!

    1. Doesn’t it, I think it is a very garden-worthy plant, as a tree or large shrub, plus it is wonderful for wildlife. Not that I can claim to have spotted much in mine as yet…

  4. Interesting how it bends to the elements! The blooms are lovely, and I’ve never looked that closely at a Hawthorne bloom before. So thanks! I agree, this is a really fun meme. I’m participating in about a week, after the buds on my tree puff out a little more.

    1. I do love the way the wind shapes them. Will look forward to seeing your puffed buds, yours is an intriguing tree. Glad you liked the blossom too.

  5. Hedgerows full of hawthorn blossom are a sight to behold – love the close up of the blossom – your tree is looking good.

    1. Aren’t they though! We don’t have many of those on the Island, too exposed I think, it is mostly blackthorn. Instead we have isolated little bursts of white in fields and on the cliffs.

  6. It’s interesting – your comments on the differences between hawthorn and blackthorn. I love hawthorn leaves, while I find blackthorn leaves blank and boring. Individual hawthorn flowers are pretty but I find their density overwhelming and prefer the more delicate, more dispersed blackthorn ones. When it comes to autumn – hawthorn, in my mind will win out again then.

    1. I agree about the leaves Lucy, not so sure about the massed blossom thing, I rather love that dense white haze. I think (whispering quietly) that I prefer individual blackthorn flowers though…

  7. A most enjoyable post and terrific photos. I’m following your hawthorn with particular interest as it’s so different to mine on the plot. xx

    1. Thank you Flighty, I am intrigued by the differences between our two trees too, most puzzling. I wonder if yours is actually a different type?

    1. I wholeheartedly agree Christina, ornamental cherries are beautiful, but I prefer hawthorn, something about all that pure white. Pure May, as you say.

  8. What a lovely Hawthorn, and I think we may be a little ahead of you here in Suffolk (need an atlas … are we on a level?), flower-wise. My hawthorn has been flowering for some days. Talk of the dreaded Jet Stream on the radio today, so hope we won’t have too much wet and windy weather just now. I saw my first caterpillar ‘tents’ on Blackthorn three weeks ago, coming back along the road from Stansted.

    1. Hi Caroline, we are quite a bit further north than you, the northernmost village in Wales, as it happens, on the north coast of Anglesey looking out across the sea to the Isle of Man. We have a maritime climate, so milder than I was used to just North of Bristol, but I’m not surprised your Hawthorns are ahead of mine. As for the jetstream, there has been a lot of wet and windy weather, so I guess they were right :-(

  9. I am fascinated with your hawthorn and see we have native hawthorns here in NY. I have a few new trees that I fear did not make it through the winter and this may be just the tree to try…I am off to investigate them. Oh and I have loads of cow parsley in my meadow every year though I suspect it will be more this year…the pollinators love it. We also have a native alexander here that I should profile…wow so much to think about but I really adore the shiny leaf and flower of your tree which I believe is also a native tree for you!!

    1. Hi Donna, I wonder how your native hawthorns differ from ours, that is intriguing. I am sorry to hear you may have lost trees, somehow that always feels a greater loss than a shrub or perennial, because they are always planted with the long term future in mind. I spotted some cow parsley on the verge just outside the village today, so it clearly does grow around here, just not in the park, or nearby. And nothing like as prolific as the Alexanders. I look forward to reading your profile of yours, again, most intriguing!

  10. I hadn’t noticed that the stamens were pink on the hawthorn, you learn something new every day!
    The birds are very generous with the seeds of hawthorn and we have little trees popping up everywhere, some get dug up and put into a pot until I can decide where my next hedge will be.

    1. Hi Pauline, I do love the way that this meme is making me more observant because I was really surprised the centers weren’t yellow like blackthorn. I thought about having a hawthorn hedge instead of a fence in the front garden, but was put off by the idea of losing so much planting space for a greater variety. I do envy you the space to settle in your freebie hawthorn plants.

  11. It’s a lovely tree for you to follow, we have a large hawthorn tree fairly close to where I live & I was tempted to use that one. However the position it is in means I would have struggled to photograph it. I’m enjoying reading about yours.

    1. Hi Joanne, they are wonderful trees aren’t they, I am lucky to at least always be able to get to one side of it, though that won’t be true for much longer if I don’t prune some of the branches threatening to take over the path.

  12. Your post proves again how much more observant we tend to become when we are blogging about our gardens and the like – I had never noted those details you pointed out. They are all coming out around here too, although as we’ve mentioned before many are in the hedgerows and have been trimmed before they can flower. I am thrilled to find buds on the pink one we planted a few years ago which had been half-throttled by the dog rose (now severely chopped) we planted at the same time. By the way, if you were still planning on ordering some G phaem I can send you some if you like.

    1. Hi Cathy, its wonderful, isn’t it, the way it makes you take notice of the things around you. Wonderful to hear that your pink hawthorn is putting out buds, I will look forward to seeing it featured in the future, it was a tree I always admired on my way to and from work back when I worked, but I never found room for one in my previous garden. And of my word, yes please, I would love some G. phaem – the purple one? Or white? I will have to name a border after you at this rate ;-)

      1. Just purple – don’t think I knew there was a white… I have phaeum ‘Samobar’ and A.N. Other so will sort some out this week for you. The pink hawthorn was heavily butchered and is not a pretty sight – although at least there is now sight of it which there wasn’t before!! – but I will post a picture in due course, I am sure ;)

  13. You know, I have never looked at the flowers of hawthorn so closely – this tree following is a real eye-opener! Ours started opening about a week ago, and I will have a good look at it tomorrow. Really enjoyed this post!

    1. Hi Cathy, it is the thing I love most about garden blogging in general and this meme in particular, the way it encourages you to look more closely at things – and the way you learn so much from other people doing the same.

  14. The fields and lanes in E Sussex are stunning at the moment with hawthorn and cow parsley (odd that you don’t get the latter). As to pruning, I think flower does bud on the previous year’s growth. Certainly the hedges at the Priory (which are trimmed in July) get next to no hawthorn flower the following spring unlike the ones which are left untouched. I have one standalone out on the meadow which I shape every August and I really like the effect. But, sadly, it doesn’t get any flower. Seems you get one or the other. Dave

    1. Hi Dave, thank you for the confirmation about the way hawthorn flowers, does it mean that if you pruned straight after flowering you would miss the berries (annoying the birds) but get to have shape and blossom? As to cow parsely, I did spot some in the verges on the way out of the village today, but they were totally overwhelmed by the Alexanders. I must take a wander up the river and see if it grows round there at all.

  15. Your hawthorn is a smasher, and I do admire its timing – just catching Tree Following Day. I suspect the wind has done more to sculpt your neighbour’s tree (though it’s just possible that the Lopper King has a friend on Anglesey); round us the hawthorns are bent almost double where they’re exposed, and none of them are really flowering yet. The ones which have some shelter are well covered in flowers. So pretty…

    1. Hi Kate, the barely discernible neat round shape beneath the shaggy new growth was patiently achieved by D on his step-ladder last Spring. I keep half expecting to see him at it again. The impressive lean is all the wind though, yours sound like the ones we have out on the cliffs, I love their gnarled shapes. Where we lived across the other side of the Island, with a great view across to the Llyn and the mountains behind, they planted a hedge of hawthorn and blackthorn to give the garden shelter. They planted them 40 years ago and they have never been pruned. They barely make it to 6′! The willows do really well though, and provide the much needed shelter belt. Got to respect that wind…

  16. Thank you, Janet, for your reply. I see I am on a level with Cardigan (a place I know well) here, so – as you say – much further south. Penmon or Holyhead Island are probably as close as I have been … and we had a glorious view of the Isle of Man three weeks ago as we flew south from Glasgow!

    1. Hi Caroline, Holyhead Island is very close to us, by our standards anyway, living in a rural area changes your perception of distance! I love it when we can see the mountains on the Isle of Man from here, and apparently people go across to the races by boat from the harbour!

  17. Janet that’s a beautiful close photo of the flower, interesting what you notice about the possible later flowering of your neighbours tree, I have noticed my downy birches tend to get catkins on the less windy side only, also many spring flowering shrubs don’t flower in my garden and I have come to the conclusion the winter gales are killing the dormant flower buds, your tree will look amazing when all those buds open, Frances

    1. Hello Frances, isn’t it fascinating how greatly the wind – or lack thereof – can affect growth and flowering. I am still learning my way around the microclimates in my garden, but I certainly know which border is the most hostile to growth, it is being devoted to spring and summer flowering herbaceous perennials and bulbs, better that than fight the cold salty north wind and watch plants die. I think you could be right about the spring flowering shrubs, I suspect it would take a prodigious shelter belt to allow you to grow a lot of plants that even here I take for granted with flourish.

  18. I think you’ve chosen well with your house as your hawthorn almost hugs the back as protector. Is it a common or midland hawthorn?

    This year seems to have been a bumper one for May and interesting to see the succession of blossom, moving South to North or in your case south-east to west! I love the country smell of the blooms that attracts fly pollinators – trimethylamine in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue (!)

    p.s. do you make use of Alexanders culinary input between celery and parsley?

    1. You do ask difficult and fascinating questions Laura! Having just googled the difference, I was about to confidently announce that mine is a common hawthorn, as the flowers have a single style, but then I read that hybrids between common and midland have between 1 and 2 styles, but have more rounded bases to the leaves. I now can’t decide whether the base of my leaves is rounded enough to declare it a hybrid, but definitely not a midland as apparently they have 2 or 3 styles. I will have to take a closer look at my leaves, and the leaves of the others around here. I’m not entirely sure I wanted to know that the lovely fragrance comes from trimethylamine, given its other possible source, though if it meant that decaying animal tissue smelt like hawthorn blossom…

  19. Janet, just a P.S. to say it’s actually Starling bills that turn yellow. I’m not sure Blackbird bills do … Thank you for all your kind comments/messages.

  20. I think following a hawthorn is a lovely idea. I’m following a Common Alder (Alnus Glutinosa) – I like the idea of taking the time to really look at, and learn about, some of those ‘hedgerow’ trees that often get overlooked. I’m also a huge hawthorn fan – the hedges around here have been covered in white blossom this year. I hope that means a bumper crop of berries later in the year. I’ve been told it’s unlucky to bring May blossom inside the house – one of those old superstitions, tho I’ve no idea what’s behind it.

    1. Hi Lucy, I wonder where these superstitions come from? Bizarre! I agree about looking more closely at these plants we just take for granted, it is amazing what happens when you look more closely. Glad to find another hawthorn fan!

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