Paul's Scarlet Hawthorn losing fight to suckers?

Discussion in 'Woody Plants' started by kia796, Feb 10, 2007.

  1. kia796

    kia796 Active Member

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    The tree is 25 years old. For many years we pruned religiously every late winter, then noticed we were getting fewer and fewer flowers. The main part of the tree (non-sucker branches) stopped growing, even when we pruned. So we stopped pruning.

    Now it's an ugly mess and likely no increase in flowering. No suckering occurs from the ground thankfully. For many years, this tree blossomed so profusely it stood out in the landscape from half a mile away.
     

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    Last edited: Feb 13, 2007
  2. JanetW

    JanetW Active Member

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    Re: Pau's Scarlet Hawthorn losing fight to suckers?

    The whole tree is full of suckers, you will need to prune out those long "water shoots" in the tree. The ones growing long thin and straight upwards are robbing your tree of its flowers, they take a tremendous amount of energy from the tree. I would get up into that tree, or hire someone to do it and get out all of those suckers (early spring on a dry day with no chance of rain) and then use a fruit tree fertilizer when you see active growth. Janet
     
  3. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Re: Pau's Scarlet Hawthorn losing fight to suckers?

    Sorry, not true. The sprouts will flower in time, they are not "robbing your tree of its flowers", they are just trying to replace what was cut out. They are bearing leaves, which are putting energy into the tree for future flowering. But hawthorns flower on old wood, so these sprouts need a few years to settle down before they are mature enough to start flowering.

    I would suggest, for the appearance of the tree, to thin out the sprouts just a little (but keep most of them), and then just let it develop naturally with no more pruning at all.
     
  4. JanetW

    JanetW Active Member

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  5. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Re: Pau's Scarlet Hawthorn losing fight to suckers?

    Sorry, that's just not true at all. Suckers are a wound response (to the pruning in the past), whereby the tree is starting to re-grow its missing crown. The suckers bear plenty of leaves, which photosynthesize, adding energy to the tree. Eventually, the suckers mature into ordinary branches, and start to flower.

    The only time where suckers are not desirable is on grafted trees, where, if the suckers come from below the graft, they are not the same identity as the plant above the graft. Generally, grafted trees are grafted at or near ground level, so this does not apply to the sucker in the photos above, only to any suckers coming directly from the roots.
     
  6. JanetW

    JanetW Active Member

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    Re: Pau's Scarlet Hawthorn losing fight to suckers?

    I disagree, the "leaves" produced on these suckers are draining the plant of energy that would otherwise be used in the main branching of the tree, besides I cannot see how photosynthesis can occur when the "leaves" on the suckers wont ever see the light of day in the dense overcrowded crown. Now during my years of Horticulture Education for which I hold a degree, we pruned many suckers out of many fruit tree's, especially apples, how many Crataegus species have you pruned in a zone where they are not even hardy! And I stand on the fact that even if you just prune this tree, to make it more attractive and to promote air circulation (which by the way can prevent may diseases from occuring) I don't know if you even looked at the picture of the tree, but the word congested comes to mind. And what caused the problem is not what is at hand here, thank you I do know how the epicormic shoots are developed and I do know that with proper pruning they are removed yearly, and not allowed to take from the otherwise natural form of sprawling branches, its just more attractive. By what I get from you is your saying don't prune and never prune even if your tree is in dire need? Whatever I am not even going to respond again, and I feel that your incessant need to prove me wrong is very immature and unbecoming. Janet
     
  7. kia796

    kia796 Active Member

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    Re: Pau's Scarlet Hawthorn losing fight to suckers?

    Based on this (Paul's...oops typo) tree's history, I think you're both right. When it was younger it bloomed profusely with few watersprouts/suckers.

    Every year watersprouts increased in number. We knew--from having had an apple orchard--that watersprouts would, on two-year old wood, flower. Despite cutting a few sprouts flush to the branch each year, more and more sprouts showed up, and a few older ones put out blossoms. But the tree's shape was being ruined.

    In the meantime flowers on the main scaffold branches seemed to be on the decline, and those branches put on very little if any new growth. We felt it was from the shade cast by the watersprouts, so we cut more of them away. A few years ago we cut most of the sprouts out. Horrible work because of the deadly thorns! That was followed by a doubling of sprouts, and very little blossom on the entire tree.

    Today, the tree blooms very little, and its shape is gone. Radical pruning will likely lead to the same results as above. Janet, thanks for the links...watersprouts in the illustrations show small short growths. Our hawthorn's sprouts are 8 feet long! And yes, Michael, they do blossom in a couple of years. But if allowed to remain, they would be so heavy on the scaffold branches, I fear breakage.

    Over the years we've tried everything (leaving sprouts, cutting a few, cutting all), and could see only temporary improvements in blossom or shape with any method. I suspect the cultivar is simply not long-lived, and is reverting to a wild(er) form (but what do I know?)

    Managed to find a use for suckers...
     

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  8. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Re: Pau's Scarlet Hawthorn losing fight to suckers?

    Duh?!? The plant in question is a cultivar that arose in Britain (in 1858), derived from a British native hawthorn species. What's your contention that I am in a zone "where they are not even hardy"??
     
  9. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Re: Pau's Scarlet Hawthorn losing fight to suckers?

    I'd not worry about that, hawthorn wood is very tough; it doesn't break at all easily.
     
  10. kia796

    kia796 Active Member

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    Re: Pau's Scarlet Hawthorn losing fight to suckers?

    Even if I (once again) thin out most of these suckers, it's such an ugly form, having lost its once lovely shape.

    What're your thoughts regarding possibility of it reverting to a wild(er) form?
    It's probably about 20 or 25 yrs old.
     
  11. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Renowned Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I decided to look into this as someone who doesn't have a clue about the proper techniques for handling this. What I found was that the books we have in the UBC BG library advocated the approach suggested by JanetW. However, upon talking with one of the horticulturists here, he mentioned that some of the instructors training him have advocated the approach that Michael suggested.

    I think it would be interesting if someone could cite a reference detailing why there seems to be a shift in convention by some people regarding this practice. Is it simply the philosophical "this is what the tree is doing in response to a wound to heal itself, so let it be" or is there more to it?

    I'm more interested in the discussion going in that direction, since it's about plants...
     
  12. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    This example has been grown as a pollarded specimen and may now need some reconstructive pruning in order to produce a semblance of a more naturally developed, attractive one. I would periodically 'edit' out crossing branches and others that seemed undesirable while mostly standing back and letting the plant's genetic blueprint restore a more normal shape. I wouldn't expect it to look exactly like it would have if not pollarded anytime soon but the more vigorous verticals probably will pull it up into a taller form from which arching side branches will produce cascades of flowers at bloom time - similar to the effect given by rambler roses or anemone clematis spilling out of a host tree. This kind of appearance is much more pleasant than that given by a specimen that looks like a hat rack or a hydra. Many Rosaceous trees are very commonly severely overpruned and spoiled.
     
  13. ndextras

    ndextras Member

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    Hi:
    I don't have an answer to your "to prune or not to prune" question but i would love to releive you of those thorns! I am an artist working with plant material and i have been trying to locate an old hawthorn tree to get thorns. I have used some large thorns in the past, which i found as suckers at the base of an old tree. Most of them are 3 to 4 inches long, but i have used up much of my supply and i am looking to get more. I would be happy to come and help you trim some of the branches away as an exchange. This way your thorny problem could serve to further art! You can see some of my art work on my web site: http://www.nicoledextras.com/ephemeralart/weeds/03_det.html and also on my flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndextras/sets/72157594223074171/. I know this sounds kinda crazy but i am very serious.
    Nicole Dextras
    Vancouver, BC
     
  14. kia796

    kia796 Active Member

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    Hi Nicole,
    We've been busy so haven't pruned the tree. Your name's on 'em!

    Looked at your art links...very, very creative. Spectacular in fact! I hope Daniel sees those splendid links!

    This--more than anything I've heard before--epitomizes "one person's junk...is another's treasure."

    Let me know when you'll be in the Okanagan.
    Barb
     
  15. ndextras

    ndextras Member

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    i did not realize you live in the okanagan until after i sent the email. it's kinda a long way to go for thorns...
     
  16. kia796

    kia796 Active Member

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    It is a long way for thorns...not a problem.
    Best wishes on your interesting project.
     
  17. smivies

    smivies Active Member

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    From the remaining branch structure and the abundant suckers, it looks like the original pruning regime was a bit aggressive. The suckers are the tree's response in an attempt to balance root volume with branch volume but as you know, it hasn't done it in an esthetically pleasing way.

    Looking at that tree, you need to integrate some of those suckers into the branch structure. Careful thinning of the suckers will give you a more natural looking branch structure and eventually more flowers as the remaining sprouts 'mature'. Be very conservative though and spread the pruning out over 2 or 3 years, otherwise the tree will send up even more suckers in reponse to your pruning.

    Simon
     
  18. kia796

    kia796 Active Member

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    Thanks Simon for that advice.
    We're going to enjoy this season's stunning scarlet flowers (presuming we'll get SOME), and then decide if this is worth keeping.

    As stated earlier, the tree was fine after pruning for the first (guessing) 20 or so years.

    We originally tried to "regain" a central leader, and pruned judiciously for a few years afterwards. It just went crazy!
     
  19. Stepaphanie

    Stepaphanie Member

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    Hi! I have a wee Hawthorne in my front yard that badly needed pruning as well - I saw that no one has mentioned that Hawthorns & other early spring blooming trees set their blossom buds in the late summer/fall. If you are pruning in early spring you are cutting off the blossom buds which may be attributing to the lack of blooms you are getting? It was recommended to me to prune the Hawthorn in late summer post bloom/fruit.
     

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