Crab Apples - They'll make you turn to Jelly! In my first "proper" garden I asked an experienced plant enthusiast to recommend a good small ornamental tree. Her reply was given without hesitation - Malus ioensis plena. Malus is the Latin word for Apple. Whilst this particular Crab Apple is not noted for showy fruit, it more than makes up for it with the double pink blossom which smothers the tree in late spring.
The grey green foliage is most attractive when it emerges and turns to warm shades of yellow in autumn. But wait, it doesn't stop there, the Malus or Crab Apple family offers more than just beautiful blossom. Most have highly ornamental fruit that apears in autumn after the flowers and holds on the tree well into the winter or until picked for delicious Crab Apple Jelly. One of the top fruiting varieties is "Jack Humm" which has large bright crimson fruit flushed with a little yellow and orange. These fruits are seldom touched by birds so if you don't wish to process into Jelly they will add interest to the winter garden.
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Crab Apples are quite easy to grow in a sunny sheltered position. They are tolerant of most soil types except for water logged soil. If you feel that your soil is a little poor then spread some slow release fertilizer around the tree in spring, perhaps adding some mulch or compost at the same time. Remember to leave space between the trunk of the tree and the start of the mulch layer.
Any pruning should be done in winter on a dry day. Basically prune for the first couple of years to get a nice open shape with 3 main branches that form a V - or what is known in horticulture as a vase shape. After that you can pretty much let the tree alone and just enjoy. Warning: some Crab Apples to have quite sharp spurs so if you are working under or around the tree take care not to meet one of these head on or you will in danger of becoming a crabby apple yourself!