Spring time isnt springtime without my mothers crab apple tree bursting into glorious bright pink colour every October....it always heralds warmer days, tall grasses waving in spring breezes, picnics, cups of tea and cake outside in the sunshine, and lying on the lawn staring at fluffy white clouds and blue, blue sky through boughs of joyfullest blossom. Mum's stunning 30 year old tree always brings a smile to my face - in the spring time with it's flowers, and in the Autumn with its cheery red fruits....there is nothing like a crab apple for delightful garden 'romance' ! When I have my own (hopefully acres) of garden again, I am going to plant a walk of crab apples to tryst down dreamily on spring mornings adorned with birdsong, and meander along in the mellowness of Autumn twilight's. Ahh....now I am dreaming big and blossomy !!
Crab apples are available in a huge array of colours from pearly white, to delicate pinks and deep reds, and almost everything in between including corals and salmon colours. They are in the rose family (Rosaceae) and are differentiated from apples by the size of their fruit. if the fruit of a tree is two inches or less it is deemed to be a crab apple. larger than two inches and it is officially an apple. Fruit colour is just as spectacular as the flowers with variations from dark-reddish purples, to reds and oranges, golden yellows and even green on occasion. Larger varieties of crab apple fruit can be used in jellies or spiced.
Crab apples have diverse growth habits or tree shapes. The shapes consist of weeping (pendulous), rounded, spreading (horizontal), upright (columnar), vase-shaped, and pyramidal. They vary greatly in size - from a shrubby 2.5m tall to over 11-12 m. Check the label before you buy to make sure it is suited to the position you want it.
Flowering crab apples are adaptable but thrive in rich loam type soil (a combination of clay, silt, and sand). Regardless of soil type, good drainage is a must for tree health. Rrelatively dry sites can be tolerated by crab apples if plant stresses are minimized during the first year after transplanting. They need 8-12 hours of direct sunlight to get the best flowering and fruiting. Fortunately for most areas of Australia, they are also frost tolerant.
If you are looking for a medium to largish shrub/tree to make your garden look positively mid century, then you cant go past crab apples...the perfect old fashioned flower for drought conscious modern times.