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Vermont Garden Journal: Selecting And Growing Crabapple Trees

Crabapples are great landscape trees for their small size, attractive shapes, beautiful spring flowers and colorful fall fruits.

Apples are as common to our landscape as maple trees. But one type, in particular, has multiple uses. This apple goes by odd names such as scroggy, bittersgall and sour grabs. The fruit were roasted and added to wassail. The Norse word for this apple means “scrubby” because the original varieties had thorns and multiple stems. We know this tree as the crabapple.

Crabapples are great landscape trees for their small size, attractive shapes, beautiful spring flowers and colorful fall fruits. The key to selecting any crabapple, though, is to buy ones with resistance to the dreaded apple scab, rust, fireblight, and powdery mildew diseases. Here are some good ones. For white flowers try 'Sargeant', 'Centennial' and 'Harvest Gold'.  For pink or red colored flowers try 'Strawberry Parfait' and 'Prairiefire'. While most crabapples grow 15 to 25 feet tall in a round or oval shape, 'Louisa' and 'Red Swan' are weeping types, that are great for small space gardens. 'Dolgo' has large fruit good for making preserves, 'Harvest Gold' has attractive yellow colored fruits and 'Spring Snow' is usually fruit-less.

Grow crabapples in full sun on well-drained soil. They'ill tolerate a little shade, but won't flower or fruit as well. For plantings close to your house or walkways, grow fragrant flowered varieties such as 'Prairiefire' and 'Spring Snow'.

Prune crabapple trees now. Unlike regular apples, you don't need to prune severely, since you're mostly interested in flower production. Prune out dead, diseased, broken, crossing, and errant branches along with root suckers and water sprouts. Some crabs will produce lots of twiggy growth in the center of the tree that should be removed. Prune to open up the tree while keeping its natural shape.

And now for this week's tip, as the ground thaws, start digging the parsnips and carrots  you had protected late last fall from the cold with deep layers of hay or straw. Dig these roots over the next few weeks before they go to seed.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about seed library and seed banks. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.


Broadcast on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 9:35 a.m.

The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and  landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and Gardeners.com.

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