Many parts of Tasmania have a perfect climate for growing crab apple trees.
Depending on the choice of crab apple type, the climate and the soil, variously these trees will be superb for their flowers, for their autumn leaves and/or their fruit.
The crab apple tree growing in my front garden was labelled Malus Gorgeous and gorgeousness is what grows and stuns me and visitors every year. When purchased as a bare rooted tree some years ago, I hoped mine would be gorgeous in all three aspects. While I love the flowers they are comparatively ordinary, the green leaves in spring are always fresh and healthy and the autumn leaves – well they are hardly noticeable. The reason is simple: the fruit is exceptional for its rich red coloured skin, it’s juicy yellow flesh, and its gigantic size. In addition, the volume of fruit that is happy to grow and hang together is excessive.
Early on in this crab apple tree’s life, when the branches grew vigorously and wanted to head for the skies, I weighted each down with a rock to gently persuade them to have a horizontal and well as vertical habit. From time to time, I have trimmed the top off the verticals, and have trimmed within the centre to ensure sufficient airflow passes through the centre of the tree. The ground is always deeply covered with rough gum bark mulch. Other than that, the tree has been easy to grow and requires no further efforts.
When asked if I make crab apple jelly, eat them as a fruit (because they are so large) or find some other culinary use for them, my answer has always been a resounding no. Around the end of July and into August, from my office window, each year I love to watch yellow beaked Common Blackbirds feasting. It is the colours that persuade me to let them have their fill: black feathers, yellow bill, red skin, yellow flesh – dramatic rich pure contrasts. Besides, each bird eats a whole apple at a time and there is no pecking around and nibbling of apples. And when a bird eats a whole apple at one feeding, it does not drop any part of the apple on the ground. No half eaten apples. No pecked apples, No rotting apples. Just glorious technicolour when the tree is laden with apples, and as a blackbird settles to feed. The crab tree offers gloriousness in winter before the yellow trumpets of daffodils burst forth!
I didn’t realise crab apples could grow so big! I thought they were always small & stunted, but that probably applies only to the ones I have ever seen. Cheers, Jon.
On most trees I have ever seen crab apples are tiny and stunted. That’s why my tree is so surprising, and has visitors asking what sort of apple it is. Perhaps this is typical of the variety and every other one is more revered for the flowers and/or the autumn leaves. Perhaps there isnt a variety which can be brilliant in all three aspects.