Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
December, 2007
Regional Report

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These jewel-like crab apple fruits make a beautiful winter display.

Select a Perfect Crab Apple for Your Landscape

Crab apples seem to catch everyone's attention in spring when they are in full bloom, but they have lots to offer in fall and winter, too. We can certainly select for flower color, but these trees have so many other attributes that it seems a shame to put all our emphasis on only a two-week display in spring.

The fruits on a well-chosen crab apple will last long after the flowers and sometimes even the leaves are gone. Many of the newer varieties have persistent fruit that gives us color through the winter. This also means that during the summer the fruits don't fall and make a mess to be tracked into the house.

We want to select varieties with fruits that keep their nice color in winter. Winter fruits can mean a beautiful bird display as well. Some crab apple fruits turn dull brown or black after freezing and thawing a couple of times -- not very appealing. Some fruits are not appetizing to birds until they have softened a bit in spring, but having a variety of different types of crab apple trees will assure a happy bird population.

Once the leaves are gone, we are left with bark and branches. Crab apples tend to have peeling bark in striking shades of cinnamon, brown, and gold, the perfect complement to the hanging fruits. Picture this against a backdrop of new snow and you'll be hooked.

Whatever your landscape ambience, there is a crab apple with a shape to enhance it. They can have an upright, columnar form, a rounded and shrubby shape, a lollipop form, or a weeping form. Size varies from 6 feet tall to 30 feet tall.

Last but not least is to select for flower color. Be sure to take into consideration the color of your home or whatever the tree will be adjacent to. You don't want to choose a pink flower if you have a salmon stucco fence. Beyond that, you can choose colors from clear white; pale, deep, or bright pink; fuchsia; magenta; carmine red; and burgundy. Flowers can range from half an inch to 2 inches across, in single or double form.

Certainly with all these attributes to choose from, you will be able to find the perfect crab apple for your landscape.

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