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Hawthorn trees

I planted 4 hawthorn bushes about 8 years ago. I'm afraid they have grown into trees 15 foot high! There are never a lot of berries on them. I want to prune them hard but was told they wouldn't flower next spring. Can anyone suggest how I can turn them into healthy bushes with loads of berries? I garden for wildlife so don't want to lose them. Thanks


  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,568

    How tall would you hope the bushes to be? How tall are the main trunks of the trees before they branch out?

    Lack of berries is either because they didn't have many flowers or because the flowers weren't pollinated, or both. Did they flower well?

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,348

    The question I would ask is:  How big is your garden and do they have enough room to produce a lot of berries?  Hawthorn is one of the best small trees for wildlife, providing a lot of nectar for pollinating insects in the spring and fruit for thrushes in the autumn and winter.Tits will find lots of insects living on them too and Sparrows, Dunnocks, Wrens, Robins and finches will nest in them.  Do you live in the country?  I do and there is a lot of hawthorn around and we get loads of Redwings feeding on the berries in the winter, Fieldfares and other thrushes too.  I am not sure how many you would get in suburban areas.

    If you prune them they will flower and berry less prolifically next year, but after that they will.  I think the mistake a lot of people make is they plant them in  gardens that are too small, hoping to attract wildlife, which they will do but they need space to reach their potential so best planted if you can give it to them.  Without knowing how big your garden is, it is hard to advise.

    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • Thanks Pansyface!  The height of the main trunks of the trees are approximately 2metres. The flowers have always been sparse hence the lack of berries.

  • Thanks Redwing!  My garden is 70 ft long and 30 ft wide. I live in Blackpool very near the sea. I must admit the hawthorns are a bit crammed in a small space as there is a shed beside them. I also have a rowan &  conifers in the same space! I have nowhere else to plant them. I was trying to create a wildlife area at the bottom of the garden so the foliage is very dense. There is also a pond nearby.  I have attracted a healthy flock of sparrows, dunnocks and blue tilts. We also have wood pigeons, blackbirds  and magpies. Shall I prune the hawthorn down this Autumn despite the lack of fruit next year? How low should I prune them. Thank you.

  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    Hawthorn can be cut back pretty ruthlessly, as when hedging.  If you're doubtful about its ability to recover, make a cut through the bark of the trunk where you want to cut it off and next year it should branch out from below the cut.  Then you can cut off the top knowing that there's something left.  But if you're brave you could just pollard/coppice them at the appropriate height and cross your fingers.

    Early winter is the best time to to do any of this, after they've lost all their leaves but before birds start looking for nest sites.

  • Thanks Steve. I think I'll cut it well back when the leaves have fallen. I realise there's not a lot of room where I've planted them so may try and dig one of the bushes out. I need a larger garden! 

  • BerkleyBerkley Posts: 428

    We have a lovely hawthorn in our front garden. It is a lovely shape and is much admired early in the year. But come July/August it has always lost all its leaves. What is the problem?

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,348

    In a way, you have answered your own question.  You have birds that are benefiting from the Hawthorn already, even though you are disappointed in the  amount of berrying you are getting.  If you cut the lot down, it will re grow as others have said but you will be removing habitat for the birds already there. Where will they go?  What about cutting half of the bushes down this winter and the remainder in a few years time if you feel it is too dense? Hawthorn is not the prettiest of bushes/hedge but it is good habitat for birds and the thicker the better.

    Also, I find that the combination of hawthorn and a pond is a winner.  The hawthorn provides good cover and food for birds and the pond food and water.  You have stated that you have 6 bird species but you probably actually have more.  This is good habitat, I would not remove the hawthorn, cut some back but it is habitat worth retaining.

    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • BerkleyBerkley Posts: 428

    Sorry I interrupted the thread .....I realise I should have started another one.

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