On my last post, I talked about how to add winter interest to your garden. Number 5 of my 7 pointers was to add plants with colorful winter berries. Today, I am going to talk about my favorite type of tree for winter berries, the four season interest crabapple.
Four season interest crabapples for gardens
Not only do some crabapples have fabulous spring flowers, some also have other great four season interest attributes such as winter berry’s and even colorful fall colors. Crabapples also come in a variety of shapes and sizes so that they can fit into a variety of spots in the garden and fill many landscape roles. This includes shrubs, specimen trees, small shade trees, etc.
Crabapple vs. Cherry trees in Japanese gardens
In Japan the cherry tree blossoms are often revered for being a sign of spring. I am often questioned about where the cherries are at our garden and when they are blooming. For my money, however the cherry tree has NOTHING on the lowly crabapple in our Midwestern climate. Not only are more diseases resistant and hardier varieties of crabapples available, they can be pruned into MUCH nicer shapes. For the Midwest landscape, such as my native Chicago area, the majority of crabapples are vastly superior to the cherry trees as landscape plants.
Notable four seasons interest crabapples for the midwest garden
Here are several crabapples that provide good disease resistance and are excellent four season interest trees:
Malus ‘Bob White’ – A large (18-20 feet) rounded form of Crab with pink buds that turn white when fully open. Very fragrant flower for an Apple, which can be smelled far away from the tree. Fall color is golden yellow to warm orange. Smaller size fruit is yellow in fall and turns a deep gold in winter when they feed the birds. Fruit can last into late January. One negative is that it does alternate heavy and light flowers every other year.
Holiday Gold crabapple (Malus ‘Hozam’)– is a large (18’ tall spreading to 14’ wide) open-rounded and yellow-fruited crabapple. It is noted for its white flowers, yellow fruit and good disease resistance. Pink buds open in spring to fragrant white flowers. Flowers are followed by yellow fruit that hang in clusters along the branches. Fruit can supposedly last into March, but I would assume most years birds will take care of them earlier than that.
Strawberry Parfait Crabapple (Malus ‘Strawberry Parfait’) – Foliage emerges reddish-purple in the spring and matures to a deep green in the summer. Fall color is golden yellow. Red fruits persist into late winter. Its shape is irregular and spreading, reaching a height of about 20 feet and spread of 25 feet at maturity. This just so happens to be a tree I bought for my mother almost 10 years ago. I can say it has been the most disease resistant crabapple I have seen. It has gotten a little scab one year, but that was a horrible year for that disease and most years its foliage is almost perfectly clean. I have also seen fruit on this tree in February. I highly recommend it if its shape and flower color meets your needs.
Sugar Tyme crabapple (Malus ‘Sugar Tyme’) – Fragrant pure snow white flower display from pale pink buds. Tree has a pretty deep red, persistent fruit through late winter. Good overall form with dense foliage. Grows 14-18′ tall and to 12-15′ wide. If you are a cheap like me, you will like that Home Depot carries this one in several sizes for cheap prices. Go look now and you might find one for 50-75% off.