At this time of the year anything helping to fulfill the ‘mellow and fruitful’ criteria for the season gets a big thumbs up from me so I’ve chosen Crataegus monogyna, the Hawthorn.
It’s a small, neat tree which always seems to be a pretty shape when grown on a single stem, though it can be grown as a hedge or shrub. It flowers beautifully in spring (giving it the common name of May) and has deliciously crimson berries (haws) in autumn and it’s native. What more could you ask?
The leaves have historically been a fundamental Springtime foodstuff in rural areas which is reflected in another common name of Bread and Cheese. It could only really be better if the berries were more appetising!
It’s supposed to be unlucky to bring the flowers into the house in Spring. They do smell a bit funny and are prime candidates for hayfever but that doesn’t quite seem to justify the negative reputation and I’d love to find out why it’s unlucky. Maybe it’s something to do with pre-Christian springtime celebrations involving the May?
I have an ambition to grow a tree of the Glastonbury Thorn (Crataegus monogyna ‘Biflora’) in my garden, the original of which flowered in Glasonbury both at the normal time and at Christmas, giving rise to the tradition that Joseph of Arimathea planted his staff there and it grew.
So many of our native trees are far too large for the average garden that Hawthorn seems to be to be the perfect choice for someone who wants an attractive small tree for their plot and would like to have a native. I just love the fact it comes with so much folklore too!