Today I am going to sing the praises of the humble crab apple, Malus sylvestris. To me it is the tree that has everything so brace yourselves folks, my sales pitch is extensive and may involve a PowerPoint presentation with laser pointer.
Firstly there is the long-lasting and stunning blossom which heralds the spring and is welcomed by early bees and other nectar lovers. The length of flowering period means that these trees are often used as companion pollinators in orchards. The flowers are followed by decorative fruit ranging in colour from crimson to buttermilk. These little orbs of delight are enjoyed not only by fruit loving birds but once fallen (unless they are particularly adventurous) by foxes, badgers, voles and mice. Many varieties then reward us with a spectacular autumn colour show, after which the tree has a few months well-deserved rest. The species is long-lived, it can reach 100 years old, and is one of the few hosts of mistletoe as well as for many species of moth. When burned the wood is aromatic and is used not only in the domestic hearth but when smoking food. The fruit are very sour but when transformed into the iconic crab apple jelly they make the perfect accompaniment to cold meats. They are also sometimes added to cider to improve the flavour.
So in conclusion, the merits of the crab apple are:
1. Beautiful for at least nine months of the year (although to me still attractive when dormant)
2. Wildlife friendly over a long period.
3. Beneficial to other plants.
4. Fragrant and delicious.
5. Does the washing up and puts it all away in the right place.
I am hoping that you were convinced before No. 5 as I made that one up. Sorry if this is a great a disappointment but you never know what the plant breeders are up to …….