If I had to choose just two trees for the garden I would have a magnolia and a crab apple. I adore crab apples, they give you wonderful blossom, lovely foliage and beautiful fruit. They are great for wild life as the flowers are high in pollen; they produce ten times as much pollen as culinary apple trees and the fruits keep birds going into the winter. They are also useful for pollinating apple trees. If I had a huge garden I would have a grove of crab apples, in fact I once did have space for what I grandly called my ‘arboretum’ and I did indulge my love of crab apples. Now I have limited space but I have still managed to accommodate several lovely trees. They come in various sizes, Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ which was here when we came is huge. It has yellow fruit, but I wouldn’t have chosen it. If I was to choose a crab apple for its yellow fruit I would go for ‘Comtessa de Paris’ which hangs on to its yellow fruit into the winter, whereas the fruit of ‘Golden Hornet’ tends to turn brown. Still the blossom looks lovely against the shrimp coloured leaves of Acer brilliantissimum.
But maybe you are looking for a smaller tree. You can get dwarf crab apples that will easily fit into a smaller garden. There is a dear little dwarf one called ‘Tina’ or then there is ‘Coralburst’ which is even smaller. There is such a variety of shapes to choose from; some are upright, almost columnar ,others are round-headed and others are weeping. My pride and joy is Malus transitoria which I grew from seed. It took about 15 years to get to this size. Most crab apples don’t come true from seed but this one does. It comes from China and it is an attractive little tree with finely cut leaves. In May it has clouds of starry white flowers and in the autumn it has yellow fruit hanging like beads from the branches.
Also with snow white blossom I have Malus brevipes ‘Wedding Bouquet’ which has masses of shell- like flowers. Later it has small, translucent red berries which persist into December.
I have another white flowered crab apple which I don’t have a name for. I bought it for £15 because it didn’t have a label. Maybe I will be able to identify it when it has fruit. Meanwhile it has pretty white blossom.
Some crab apples, like ‘Red Jade’ have white flowers opening from pink buds which makes it look like the usual apple blossom. It makes a pretty weeping tree.
Malus hupehensis is a bit later flowering and is still in bud. It too has white flowers opening from pink buds, they are lightly fragrant. It comes from China where the leaves are used to make tea. Like Malus transitoria it comes true from seed, although I haven’t tried growing this one from seed. It has bright cherry- red fruit.
I have already written about my amazing Malus ‘Princeton Cardinal’ which is sometimes known as simply ‘Cardinal’. It is a variety of Malus hupehensis and in my eyes, it is peerless if you want a crab apple with dark pink flowers. It has dark red leaves which are hardly visible amongst the abundance of blossom. I have featured it in my header picture. Later it has dark red fruit.
Another tree with dark pink blossom is ‘Laura’. She is a dwarf tree with an upright habit so handy for a limited space. I love the dark pink blossom with a white stripe. The fruits are large and a maroon colour.
Having said that ‘Princeton Cardinal’ is my favourite, a close runner up is my latest indulgence. I went to a nursery to take photographs of crab apples for this post but quite forgot to take any because I fell in love with Malus ‘Van Eseltine’ and I could think of nothing else but how to fit it into my small car. I managed with difficulty and as you can see it has fabulous double pink flowers.
Of course, the other advantage of growing crab apples is that the the fruit has a high pectin content and so is ideal for making crab apple jelly if that is the kind of thing you like. Personally, I prefer to leave them for the birds because I am not keen on sweet things. But it is simple to make.
Crab Apple Jelly.
1lb washed, sliced crab apples.
1 pint water.
Simmer until the fruit is a pulp.
Strain through a jelly bag, do not squeeze if you want clear jelly, you have to be patient.
Add 1lb of sugar for each pint of juice.
Boil for about 5 minutes until it reaches setting point.
Bottle and store.
Throw away in a year’s time if you are me. Or else give away jars to friends, they make nice looking presents, specially if you get pretty, rustic labels and lid covers. And then your friends can throw it away in a year’s time. Or do some people actually eat the stuff?
Anyway, that is my collection of beautiful crab apple trees; please remind me that I really do not have enough room for any more if I start talking about them again. After all, I have other obsessions that have to be accommodated. We are coming up to peony time and then there will be roses. And I shall definitely need more roses. I always do.