Blossom and berries to bring in pollinators, birds, and us!
18th May 2023
May – this is the month of the May tree, hawthorn, with its deeply lobed leaves ubiquitous in the British countryside, in both hedges and trees. Its name is in fact derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for hedge, haeg. Dense heads of creamy-white flowers on the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, herald the transition to summer. Our other native species, the Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), flowers a little earlier. The two hybridise freely.
Common hawthorn is a tough tree, surviving in exposed situations and all but the most difficult soils. It can live over 200 years, despite growing to only about 5-6 metres tall. And its wildlife value is immense – the flowers are a magnet for nectar-feeding insects and the fruits (haws) are on a par with elderberries as a staple food for blackbirds, thrushes, fieldfares, waxwings and redwings.
There are other thorn trees in the genus Crataegus that are worthy of being planted in gardens, too, with colourful pink-red blossom, large, shiny fruits and pleasing forms. For example, the frosted thorn, Crataegus ‘Splendens’, has a lovely domed crown and pretty cream blossom; 'Crimson Cloud' colourful blossom.
Late spring does not only belong to hawthorn. The branches of the rowan tree, Sorbus aucuparia, are also adorned with abundant cream flowers that attract pollinating insects. These, too, will turn into nutritious berries for wildlife, with the added bonus of bringing cheerful colour in later months. Rowan, or mountain ash, also comes in varieties that offer different coloured berries, larger ferny leaves and great autumn colours – see our range of Sorbus.
And we can’t not mention lilac at this time of year. Heady scents that waft several metres from trees laden with heavy cones of blooms, in white, mauve and pink – lilac (Syringa) puts on an outstanding show. Prune after flowering to keep the tree small and make sure the flowers are borne low down the following spring. The fragrant flowers are such a sight to behold, you’ll want them where you can see them.
Of course there is even more to this season than this delightful trio, so do come down to the nursery if you can, to see what we have in stock and ask any questions - we're always happy to help you choose the right tree.