Fruit from the Garden of Eden


MALUS is the Latin name for all ap­ple trees. The na­tive wild crab ap­ple is Malus sylvestris while the ap­ples we grow to eat are clas­si­fied un­der Malus do­mes­tica. Both va­ri­eties have many many cul­ti­vars but it is the crab ap­ples I am go­ing to dis­cuss here.

The cul­ti­vated crab ap­ple trees we grow in our gar­dens are of­ten over looked when it comes to se­lect­ing small flow­er­ing trees for our gar­dens. This is of­ten in favour of the won­der­ful cherry blos­soms which are un­doubt­edly never a bad choice ei­ther. Both ap­ples and cher­ries be­long to the same plant fam­ily in fact, Rosaceae, along with other plants like roses, hawthorns and moun­tain ash trees.

But the flow­er­ing crab ap­ple is no poor man’s cherry blos­som. If fact they are equal to them in their flow­er­ing pro­fu­sion with colours from white through pink to red. Most flow­er­ing crab ap­ple as you might ex­pect will also pro­duce large crops of brightly coloured crab ap­ples of vary­ing sizes that can last on the trees well into win­ter. The fruits range in colour from yel­low to red and crim­son some­times flushed with all three.

Crab ap­ples are ex­tremely sour but a jelly pre­serve can be made with most of va­ri­eties. I have never done so my self but I would imag­ine it in­volves a lot of boil­ing and a lot of su­gar. Some va­ri­eties have pur­ple leaves, the­ses are best grown in full sun to keep their best leaf colour. Other va­ri­eties take on au­tumn tints. A

Athough not seen of­ten, crab ap­ples make ex­cel­lent wall trained spec­i­mens, laid out with hor­i­zon­tal branches they can be quite struc­turally dra­matic even through win­ter. They can be used as pol­li­na­tors for fruit va­ri­eties as well. Flow­er­ing crab ap­ples are not only a plant for all sea­son but also for all rea­sons.

Crab ap­ples tend to be small trees, sim­i­lar to cher­ries again in fact. They gen­er­ally flower later than most cher­ries, start­ing in May, so they are a great con­tin­u­a­tion tree when the cher­ries have fin­ished their flow­er­ing. They don’t ask for much. Rea­son­able soil, some sun, some shel­ter. Given these ba­sic re­quire­ments they will per­form well for many years for you.

Their one down­side, there al­ways has to be one, is that they are sus­cep­ti­ble to ap­ple scab, as cher­ries are to canker and roses are to blackspot. Scab is a fun­gal dis­ease that ef­fects all ap­ples. It is of more con­cern on ed­i­ble fruit be­cause it can ren­der them ined­i­ble. It man­i­fests it­self as brown or black lei­sions on the fruit and leaves. It sel­dom kills the tree and can be treated with a fungi­cide. Clear­ing up old dropped leaves in au­tumn as with all leaves is highly ad­vis­able. Many va­ri­eties bred now are highly re­sis­tant to scab and it should cer­tainly not put you off plant­ing one of these spec­tac­u­lar small trees that rarely reach higher than twenty feet. Malus ‘Ever­este’ is one such cul­ti­var with ex­cel­lent scab re­sis­tance. Mak­ing a con­i­cal tree with many flow­ers, red bud­ded open­ing white and large at 5cms. These are fol­lowed by yel­low/ or­ange long-last­ing fruit 2.5 cms across. Malus ‘Red Senti­nal’ is a nar­row up­right tree with masses of white flow­ers fol­lowed by bright red long last­ing crab ap­ples. Good scab re­sis­tance also. Malus hu­pe­hen­sis is an un­usal species as it makes 40 feet and is one of the largest crab ap­ples. Pink bud­ded open­ing white flow­ers and red / yel­low fruits. Dis­ease re­sis­tant and some­thing for the plant col­lec­tor to look out for. Malus ‘Pro­fu­sion’ is a pur­ple leafed va­ri­ety. As the name sug­gests it flow­ers in great pro­fu­sion with wine red flow­ers. The ap­ples are blood red and small. This va­ri­ety is not quite so scab re­sis­tant. Malus ‘Golden Hor­net’ has white flow­ers and masses of long last­ing yel­low fruit. Malus flori­bunda is a hugely pop­u­lar plant and is known as the Ja­panese crab. Crim­son in bud open­ing white to blush pink with small fruits of red and yel­low. This is the ear­li­est of the crabs to flower. And fi­nally if a word can paint a thou­sand pic­tures, Malus ‘Gor­geous’, pic­tured left, which is ev­ery­thing you might ex­pect. Pink buds open­ing to white flow­ers and very per­sis­tent crim­son or­ange fruits.

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