‘The hawthorn.., has little claim to picturesque beauty… Its shape is bad. It does not taper, like the holly, but is rather a matted, round, heavy bush.’ Notwithstanding the Rev William Gilpin’s attack, there is a case to be made for hawthorn as the native that Capability Brown planted in greater numbers than any other tree, ‘the pride of park scenery’ as William Marshall called it.
With blackthorn it makes the best stock-proof hedge, and notwithstanding its thorns, it makes good firewood and can be coppiced. It can be planted in brakes to protect young trees, and provides deer with cover to fawn in. It is much the most conspicuously flowered of our natives, white over in May, hence it is loved by insects and encourages birds. Its small size gives the ground in which it is planted a rough forest-like appearance, particularly on falling ground, whether looked at from above or below, and with the protection that its thorns give it, it breaks up a ‘browsing line’. It is an absolutely reliable tree that will grow almost anywhere.
Mrs. Lybbe Powys praised Brown’s use of the tree at Caversham; there is thorn amongst the single oaks on the far side of the water at Burton Constable and at Berrington, there is a fine brake at Chillington, and there are good single examples at Wimpole and Petworth.
I hear hawthorn dismissed because it is a rough tree, and roughness played no part in Brownian design. But Oh Oh Oh Oh! I fear that this is a consequence of listening overmuch to Brown’s picturesque critics.