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Pruning hawthorn

jaffacakesjaffacakes IrelandPosts: 424
Hi all, i have 2 hawthorn shrubs in my garden that are quite tall. 10-11 feet high. They are growing more like hedges than trees and i'd love to remove side branches to around shoulder height to make it grow almost like a multi stemmed tree. I saw this beautiful example (last photo) growing in a nearby estate. Something like that and i'd maintain it around 8-9 feet would be perfect.

What would be the best time to do this? After flowering? It's just coming into flower now so looking forward to that  :)

Any tips on pruning to form this shape greatly appreciated  :) I heard you can be quite brutal with them?


  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,687
    edited April 2019
    Wait till the flowers are over and they can be pruned anytime from early summer to autumn. Even in winter time you can still cut them back too. Just cut the lower straggly branches right into the main stems where you want as one of your multi-stems. You may need to do this quite a number of times but eventually, you should be able to get a similar look as the one in the bottom photo after a few years.

    When shortening the height, be quite ruthless with some of the stems to thin out. Try to cut at least a third of branches quite far down. If you just cut all of them back to a similar height, you will have more heavy dense growth in one go creating uneven growth and more vigorous growth near the top.
  • jaffacakesjaffacakes IrelandPosts: 424
    Thanks Borderline. For the height, do you mean i can cut back some of the older branches further down than the new growth?
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,574
    Yes.   In my experience pruning hawthorn promotes vigorous growth.  Our hedge in our last garden happily put on 6' a year so take out all small side shoots up to say shoulder or head height and then remove more, intermittently, to reduce crossing stems towards the centre and then you'll see more clearly which vertical stems can then be reduced to improve the shape.

    Wait till flowering finishes and do make sure there are no birds nesting in it before you start.  If they are, you'll have to wait till autumn but that's OK as it's easier to see what you're doing after leaf fall.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • jaffacakesjaffacakes IrelandPosts: 424
    Excellent thank you both  :) Looking forward to seeing it become a multi stemmed tree rather than messy bush.
  • Hampshire_HogHampshire_Hog Hampshire Coast 100m from the seaPosts: 1,089
    edited April 2019
    Check for any late nesting birds before you start work they like Hawthorn for the protection it gives them. If nothing then chop away  :)

    "You don't stop gardening because you get old, you get old because you stop gardening." - The Hampshire Hog
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