Top hawthorns to grow
Nurseryman Graeme Proctor chooses the best varieties for different situations
Best for screening neighbours
Crataegus mexicana: I rank this semi-evergreen (syn. C. pubescens f. stipulacea) alongside evergreen cotoneasters for screening, as in mild winters its foliage lasts into February. The leaves make a perfect foil for winter-flowering shrubs such as Viburnum x bodnantense and the orange-gold thumbnail-sized berries are highly ornamental.
Best for pleaching
C. x grignonensis AGM: I’ve seen this grown very effectively as pleached trees around a tennis court - not formally clipped but more like a floating hedge. The leaves stay on until January and really set off its ‘snooker ball’ red berries.
Best for small gardens
C. laevigata ‘Punicea’ AGM (syn. ‘Crimson Cloud’): One of the most elegant trees, with a slightly weeping habit and hardly any thorns, which is unusual. It has striking dark-red flowers with white eyes followed by masses of red berries in autumn. I use it as a specimen tree or in a mixed bed underplanted with things like blue ceanothus.
Best for autumn colour
C. pinnatifida var. major: If you don’t have the right soil for acers but want an injection of fiery red autumn colour, this is ranked among the best for a small tree. The big red berries look stunning in autumn underplanted with white-stemmed Rubus cockburnianus.
Should be grown more
C. ellwangeriana: A real cracker as it’s such a graceful tree, growing to around 5m tall. I’ve seen it planted in clumps of three with drifts of cornus for an effective natural planting scheme. It’s a great all-rounder with impressive creamy-white flowers, spectacular glossy leaves in summer, then large crimson fruits and a fantastic orange-red autumn colour.
Find out how to design with hawthorns in our feature on using Crataegus