must-have (for you and the birds): crabapples

IT’S HARD TO THINK OF ANOTHER TREE that gets more appreciation here from me and the birds. (And don’t forget: I know what birds like, even beyond crabapples.) This last week has been crabapple time on my hillside (above), and it made me think about how much I love these extra-showy members of the genus Malus, and not just in flower.

I love them with little yellow fruits (like ‘Bob White’) or giant, gleaming red ones (like ‘Ralph Shay’, whose fruits are just below). Regular-sized red fruits are wonderful, too.

If I had to recommend only one…I couldn’t, but I most of all love the crabapples with Malus sargentii “blood”—the wider-than-tall genes of the Sargent crabapple, like my pink-flowered ‘Candy Mint’ plants (the two paler-pink ones in the photo), or beautiful ‘Tina’ (a variety I don’t have—yet). I like the Sargent types because they look beautiful even bare, with their hummocky structure. The dark-pink, slightly more upright tree in the background is showy ‘Prairifire,’ by the way.

So that’s it: My annual pitch for adding a crabapple to your landscape—and the landscape of your local birds.

  1. Terri H. says:

    Totally agree. We have one of those “wider-than-tall” crabapple trees in our front yard. The winter before last when the ground was covered with snow for a couple months, the squirrels beat a path between the tree and the nearest telephone pole. And yes, of course, I’m always seeing birds in it–right from my living room recliner.

  2. PJ says:

    What beautiful color…add the birds, and you have perfection! hmmmm…asparugus bake looks yummy! Love the ‘bee doodle’, too. I was JUST yesterday thinking of where I can buy local honey ;)

  3. kristi says:

    I guess my crabapple has been under appreciated until now. I love its flowers, but its not in a great location (it came with the house). I will try to focus on its strengths in the future.

  4. Chiko says:

    I am so happy to have found you!
    I am a Japanese born American who started to garden here in Colorado.
    Since I don’t know most Japanese gardening words, I have been enjoying to interact with Japanese gardeners and learn how they say/call something and tell them how we say/call the same thing.
    I have learned that Japanese word for crabapple is ” hime-ringo”, meaning “princess-apple”. I thought it was sweet.
    Anyway, I can’t wait to tell them about “deadheading”.

    1. margaret says:

      That is hilarious, Chiko. Talk about “losing something in translation”. :) Between the common names, Latin names, and Japanese versions of the names..wow!

  5. Louise says:

    I just planted a Prairie Fire one in my rear yard. I can hardly wait to see it bloom in coming years. From your blog’s inspiration I have also planted near there, 3 types of winterberry, 3 male winterberries, a witch hazel, a mock orange and a kerria japonica. Thanks for guiding and inspiring all of us.

    1. margaret says:

      So nice of you to say so, Louise. All VERY good choices (tee hee). I should get a commission from garden centers I think, right? :)

  6. Dianne Young says:

    We had a Prairie-fire professionally moved and replanted last fall and
    couldn’t wait to see it blossom this spring. Simultaneously , we had a
    Newport Plum added as well. The Plum has flowered quite nicely-however
    the Prairie fire did not bloom at all…A friendly and knowledgable neighbor
    told us that was normal…Is it??
    Thanks, Dianne

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Dianne. Many plants “sulk” the year after root disturbance (especially transplanting, meaning it was fresh-dug, not just moved from a nursery pot into the ground). So it would not surprise me. Make sure it stays well-watered through its first couple of years in the new spot, to minimize further stress.

  7. Diane Siegel says:

    Hi there.
    I’m in Santa Barbara, under lots of blankets doing my obsession: THINKING ABOUT PLANTS. I’ve been a professional gardener since 1980 and am more in love with the natural world than ever. My own tiny garden needs a crabapple for all my ‘little sillies’(aka birds). I am simply in love with the PROCESS. Figuring out how to find more places to plant just floats my boat. I feel it does for you as well. Yes, I’m considering the Sargents.

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