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6 November 2012

Crab Apple Trees an article by UK Gardening Directory

If you only have room for one single tree in your garden you should certainly consider planting a crab apple, which if grown on a modern dwarfing rootstock, as is usual these days, will give you a tree 12 - 15 ft tall. It wil provide you with spring blossom which is as good as flowering cherries but longer-lasting and far more weather-resistant, followed by a crop of colourful crab apples in the autumn. Finally, in winter, there’s what garden designers call form – a blend of shape, stature and gravitas. Depending which variety you choose, a crab apple may be weeping, bushy, mushroom-shaped or a narrow conical spire, all picked out in bare twigs.

Another plus point for crab apples is that they are brilliant for wildlife. In spring the trees are magnets for blue tits hunting for greenfly and tiny caterpillars to feed their chicks, then in autumn and winter the ripe fruit attracts blackbirds, thrushes and redwings for a feast. Some crab apples even have culinary uses.

There are various varieties of crab apple, some of the most common of which are described below. Each has it's own strong points.

If you’ve set your heart on making classic delicate pink crab apple jelly, the variety to choose is ‘John Downie’, which has large flask-shaped fruit with a bright rosy flush. They don’t last on the tree for long, so pick them as soon as they are ripe. (You CAN use any crab apples with large or medium-sized fruit, but ‘John Downie’ is best by far). This is the species I have in my garden and I used the fruits to make crab apple jelly last year for the first time. I had enough fruit to make seven jars of jelly and also gave the next-door neighbour a couple of pounds of fruit.

Red Sentinel will give you a prolific crop of colourful crab apples that will remain on the trees as late as possible. It has white flowers followed by an abundance of large, brilliant red fruits that are still there in March.

Red Jade is very long lasting too, with off-white flowers followed by masses of small red crabs.

One of the most colourful over a long season is ‘Profusion’ which has deep purple-red flowers and coppery-bronze foliage, with loads of small, deepest red, berry-like fruits to follow.

Golden Hornet is considered to be one of the best for birds. The tree has a rather upright-bushy shape, then in autumn the branches are weighed down by the mass of round, yellow, gobstopper-like fruit, just the right size for blackbirds and thrushes to swallow whole. Your crop will have been eaten by November.

Crab apples are very easy-going and will do better than real fruit trees in a slightly windy situation, and are also happy on rather heavier soil. They are brilliant pollinators as they stay in bloom for such a long period.

Crab apples should be pruned in early spring before new growth starts. Trimming after the start of July will cut back on fruits and flowers for the following year.

I hope you enjoy your crab apple tree, and do have a go at making crab apple jelly - it's not difficult and is well worth the effort.
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