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APPLE OF MY EYE; The original fruit of the Garden of Eden, it's difficult not to be tempted by the delicious sight of a tree heavy with a ripe crop of apples.


One of the most glorious trees in my garden this week – and probably for the next month – is a big crab apple, Malus Golden Hornet, that stands by the side of the track.

It is a weighty tree – it has lived here for 30–odd years. It is one of those trees you read about in magazines and hear mentioned on radio and television.

I yearned to grow it long before I had a garden big enough to plant it in – or any garden at all, come to that.

In winter, it is laid bare – a complex matrix of trunk, branches and twigs. But as late as March, fruit still decorates the branches. As you walk down our track and see it silhouetted against the winter sky, it becomes two–dimensional, completely graphic, a line drawing.

In spring, buds start to swell, leaves and flowers race to be first and, before you know it, everything is full–frontal froth – pink, white and the freshest green.

During summer, it is a quiet, green presence as the fruit swells. It plays host to Clematis Huldine, whose mother–ofpearl flowers use the greenery as a cool background during the late summer but now in October combine ecstatically with the glowing amber fruits.

Crab apples are perfect trees for small family gardens. They fruit from an early age and children love to collect the jewel–like apples. Not only are they edible when cooked – crab apple and bramble jelly is the best free preserve ever – but they also efficiently pollinate other apples flowering at the same time and provide year–round interest.

If space is really limited there are fastigiate forms (narrow and columnar) that will grow slowly upwards without ever creating too much shade.

M. Red Sentinel has pure white flowers and dark crimson fruit that often persist through the winter. They are big and juicy enough to use for decoration at Christmas. The flowers that precede them are pure white.

In M. Hupehensis, the ascending branches are covered in pink–budded, white–flowered, fragrant blossom, which is then followed by a heavy crop of rosy–yellow crab apples.

Another way to save space is to grow a pendulous variety, such as M. Elise Rathke or M. pumila Pendula, which has relatively large flowers, followed by substantial yellow, delicious fruit.

If you have more space, choose from traditional crab apples, such as M. John Downie or go for a purple–leaved cultivar with deep–pink flowers and dark fruit – M. Jay Darling or M. Lemoinei are just two of the numerous dark–leaved crabs.

It's a good time to plant containerised stock now while the soil is still warm and your trees can get off to a flying start. If you want to plant any tree with bare roots this is best done when the tree is completely dormant, so it has a chance to make new roots without the extra burden of supporting foliage.

If you go visiting some of the bigger gardens open to the public over the next few weeks, including the RHS gardens or the numerous arboretums, you'll find a selection of them in full fruit. You'll find eating or cooking apples, too.

Many gardens organise apple days, where you can see the fruit, taste it and buy apples to take home. You can learn about cultivation and the vexed question of pruning – much easier to understand when you can see its results in action.

Trees like these are not only beautiful in flower, foliage and fruit but if you're short of space, you can also combine the edible with the aesthetic.

Our small apple tree M. Discovery has come to be a friend. It has also been in the garden for more than 30 years and gives us flowers and fruit every year.

Its crimson–skinned, pink–fleshed apples are delicious but they don't keep, which means that lots of people get a chance to taste them.



CRUNCH TIME Our Discovery apple tree is a family friend

BEJEWELLED Crab apple trees like this Malus Comtesse de Paris are both beautiful and abundant
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 12, 2014
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