Why Crab-Apple Trees are Landscape Must Haves
I suppose when you’re living in an area where you have choices, the poor crab-apple might not come as a first choice. After all, the fruit that crab-apples make isn’t easily palatable right off of the tree like a sweet cherry or a yellow plum (ah, fond memories) and they flower a lot like every other kind of tree does. Oh, and the lawnmower hates running over the fallen fruit of some of the smaller, harder fruited crab-apple varieties. So, why are crab-apples planted so much and why should you have them in your landscape? The realities will probably surprise you.
Crab-apples are planted so often because once in a while, someone finally accepts how much of an amazing tree they can be. First of all, they’re easily managed in size and shape by regular pruning and purchasing varieties that adhere to size requirements, and the sheer plethora of mature size variation among crab-apple varieties is astounding. From very dwarf, to larger ornamental specimens, there’s lots of choice. Second, they really, really put on a show in the spring when they bloom. In the future, you may want to pay attention to your reactions to spring blooming trees as you pass them. Most of what you “ooh” and “ahh” at will be crab-apples. You can find blooming colors that range from white to deep pink, in single, double, and triploid bloom forms. Crab-apples bloom at a time when most other ornamental blooming trees are finished or haven’t begun to bloom yet, and they hold onto their display for a lot longer than other blooming trees. In leaf, their simple, pretty simplicity is wonderful. But the fruit is the most amazing. Completely edible, a lot of wildlife love to devour crab-apple fruit. Some of the larger fruiting varieties make apples that are absolutely beautiful in reds, bicolors, yellows, and pinks- and they taste good! Old timers used these crab-apples to make jams and jellies, and if you’ve never tried crab-apple jam or jelly, you should. It’s very good.
And finally, crab-apples make a great pollinator for apple trees. In fact, many orchards rely on them for reliable pollination around their apples. They all work for all apples that need a second tree for pollination because apples tend to be resistant to their own pollen. But crab-apples themselves aren’t resistant to their own pollen, and are happy to share that pollen among apples of all kinds as well.
Crab-apples are great additions to most landscapes and should always be considered as a flowering, ornamental choice. This is especially true for people living in colder zones where many of the cherries and stone fruit flowering trees aren’t hardy. They’re beautiful, useful, and a very welcome sight in the yards of many.