Winter King Hawthorn vs. Amelanchier 'Autumn Brilliance'

ilikemud_2007March 28, 2009

Both of these trees fit the size and cultural requirements that I have. I was just wondering if you all would have any pros or cons to share.

I really think I'm leaning towards the Hawthorn because of it's multiple seasons of interest, but am interested in others folk experience.

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I've had both of these in my yard, and I like them both, but all in all, I'd definitely go with 'Winter King.' Like a lot of serviceberries, 'Autumn Brilliance' is a nice little tree or large shrub, but its appeal is mostly subtle at best. The flowers are okay, but they last about fifteen minutes in the spring and are overshadowed by all the other showier plants that are flowering in March-April here in the South. The fruits can be attractive (and tasty), but once again, they don't last long at all. The fall color is very nice (hence the name), but is frankly no match for lots of the other small trees one can grow around here (maples, pistaches, sourwood, stewartias, crapemyrtles, persimmons, dogwoods, sassafras, etc., etc., etc.). And while it's an appropriate plant for a naturalizing situation, I've had a hard time developing it into a plant of any particular character or elegance. Worst of all, in my yard, 'Autumn Brilliance' was frequently severely disfigured by a variety of fungal infections, including its foliage, fruits, and branches, leading it to often fail to live up to its potential.

'Winter King' hawthorn, on the other hand, is an unheralded star. With just a little pruning, it has made an outstanding small specimen tree for me in my gardens both here in the South in Zone 7 and back when I used to live in the Midwest in Zone 5. In both places it was a consistently spectacular flowerer, with its show coming in April-May here, when there's less competition from other flowering trees. It's really a gorgeous tree year-round, too, with lustrous foliage, good fall color (although still not as spectacular in my neighborhood as some of those listed above), and lovely crops of scarlet fruits that the birds leave alone long enough to make a long-lasting dormant season display. It's been a real winner. I've heard of other people fighting disease problems on it here in the South, but I've never seen a blemish on mine. And its most unheralded attribute is the great warm, glistening, gray-silver color of its bark, particularly evident on a crisp, sunny winter day. Very nice.

Overall, I would actually recommend both plants, but in most situations if you had to pick one, I would go with 'Winter King.' The serviceberry would be a better choice if you need a tree that can tolerate more shade, or if the thorns on the Crataegus woulid pose a problem, or if wildlife value is a top priority (it's tough to beat as a bird magnet), or if your space specifically needs something subtle and understated. Otherwise, go with the 'Winter King.' At least if you can find it at a nursery. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 7:44PM
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WOW thanks for your response! I have a good tree man who is also a big fan of the winter king.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 11:38AM
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About the Winter King:

We're looking for a tree that's max 20-25' wide. I've seen conflicting info online about the true width of this one. It seems to be perfect for our location in every other way, though. If it eventually got too wide, will it accept pruning? Will we destroy the form if we do try to constrain the width?

Also, I read somewhere that it resents fall planting. True? Haven't seen that anywhere else, just in one post online.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 5:05PM
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One of the main selling points of 'Winter King', other than the red fruits, is the architectural aspect of its gray branches.

Although you can prune the tree, you run the risk of taking away a lot of the natural beauty if you end up wacking it back too much. It could be the perfect tree for you anyways, as the width at maturing is 20-30', hopefully the specimen you pic has the genetics that it naturally maxes out no more than 26'.

You'd not have to worry about pruning at that width for many years though, and you'd have several seasons to lightly nip branches to keep it at 25' rather than a massive, watersprout-inducing pruning all at once in the end.

Here is a link that might be useful: Crataegus viridis 'Winter King'

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 10:48PM
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I own a house 3 blocks from the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey. I have Amelanchier Autumn Brilliance planted next to my patio and it is beautiful. Great fall color, tasty berries. This year, the birds polished them off before I could eat any. One problem, when the birds don't eat them all, they can stain the patio stone. I initially considered Winter King, but the local nursery told me Winter King was not salt tolerant and would not thrive where I live. Storms usually drop a lot of sea salt spray a few blocks in land. Amelanchier is very salt tolerant. In the last two winters, we have had heavy snow falls, with drifting snow chest deep in my back yard. No damage to the tree. I recommend it.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 3:13PM
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