These delicate white flowers belong to the Hawthorn, the last fruit tree to bloom in spring. Bees are swarming the trees now, in fall the Hawthorns belong to the birds. Serviceberries and cherries produce fruit in late spring or early summer, but red Hawthorn berries, called Haws, don’t ripen until fall when there’s not much fruit around. In late October, the tree is swarmed by birds plucking the tasty berries.
When the leaves drop away in winter the reason for the Hawthorn name becomes obvious. You can see it’s covered in spiky, dangerous-looking thorns, which are about 2 inches long. In fact, it’s wise to take off the branches that are low to the ground so you won't inadvertently get tangled up with those thorns.
Hawthorns aren’t a common landscaping tree here in Georgia so they’re hard to find. Luckily, I now have two—a lush Washington Hawthorn in the backyard that my landscaper found and a sapling Winter King Hawthorn in the front. This is the first year the Winter King has bloomed which is a big relief. I ordered the tree two years ago from an out-of-state nursery and it was shipped as dormant, bare root stock. I wasn’t sure it would survive, but surprise—the Winter King is thriving.
All those blooms mean a bumper crop of fall berries. Even though other trees have more brilliant fall foliage, seeing Cardinals and Waxwings nimbly navigating those thorny branches and gorging on the scarlet berries makes the Hawthorn the best fall tree in the garden.