This is the Common Hawthorn so familiar in the countryside all over Britain. Probably best known as a country hedge, it also makes an excellent small garden tree with good wildlife value. Another common name is Quickthorn because it quickly makes a very effective, dense and thorny stock-proof hedge, and has been grown for hundreds of years for this purpose.
Site and soil
Hawthorn will grow in any soil except an outright bog. It is very tough and hardy and cope well with strong winds on exposed hillsides and coastal sites.
Height and spread
After 10 years: 4m x 3m After 20 years: 8m x 5m
Leaf and bark
The leaves are ovate, and glossy dark green, and deeply lobed, rather like an Oak, and about 5cm long. The bark is a greyish dark brown, cracked into thin rectangular plates.
Flower, seed and fruit
The five-petalled creamy white flowers are borne in flat clusters of 6-12. They are strongly scented. These are followed by greenish berries, or haws, which ripen to red by September and are held on the tree well into winter to provide a good food source for birds. Each haw contains a single seed.
Hawthorn is most often used as an agricultural stock-proof hedge, but also makes a good garden hedge in country areas. It is an attractive small garden tree, pretty in blossom and fruit, and is an essential part of woodland planting.
The wood, which is very hard, has been used to make small articles, and boxes and combs were made from the roots. A liqueur can be made from the mealy berries, which are known as ‘Bread and Cheese’ and sometimes eaten by country children. Hawthorn provides a rootstock for pears and medlars. Medicinally, it is an important plant used to improve the action of the heart.
Hawthorn is surrounded by legend and superstition, and the flowers were the centre of May Day celebrations.
Insects pollinate the flowers, attracted to them by the scent. Both trees and hedges are good nesting sites for birds, and the berries provide winter food for Blackbirds, Thrushes, Fieldfares and Waxwings. Insects shelter in the crevices of the bark, making a further food source for birds.
The main reasons for buying protection is to protect the plants against:
When it comes to deciding what protection to choose the golden rule is to choose the product dependent on which pest you are protecting against. The below will help you in deciding what height of protection you will need.
Vole, Mice 20cm
Roe Deer, Muntjac 1.20m
Fallow Deer 1.50m
Pest & Minimum Protection Height
Protection Type Where more than one size is listed, the wider diameter protection is recommended for taller, bushier plants.
Support Required Taller support is recommended for use in sandier, lighter soils and wider/stronger support should be used at exposed sites.
New hedgerows should be planted in two staggered rows 30cm apart.
We recommend a minimum of 5 plants per metre.
Hawthorn hedges should be pruned in winter. Older hedges are often subject to the old practice of hedge-laying, where the stem of the plant is cut almost through near the base, then pulled down parallel with the ground to encourage new vertical growth which thickens the hedge up and fills in any gaps. This too should be done in winter.