Forty years ago, we were taught in college that a flowering crabapple is either pink or white, round, has diseases and has fruit too tart to eat and yet big enough to be a mess in the yard. This thinking still prevails with some customers today, even though it is very much outdated.
My crabapple research began in 1974 when I worked for Dick Ammon Landscaping in Florence, Kentucky. He also owned Ammon Nursery where he had many varieties of flowering crab. This is where I first saw firsthand how to appreciate their broad range of seasonal attributes.
At this point, I came to realize just how much more crabapples could be than just a pink or white, two week bloom. It was here that I saw varieties of pink, white and red bloom, that had red or green leaves, with either round, upright, weeping or dwarf stature. This means they can be either a lawn, landscape or patio tree.
I then also came to appreciate the two week spring bloom and the five month red leaf could be complimented with an extended third season in the fall with persistent fruit of orange or red. During the 70s, there were still too many disease and fruit size issues.
During 30 years of having my own nurseries, I’ve had an ongoing R & D program with crabapples to always seek out the best of the best. I’ve raised about 100 different varieties in that time and my research and development has narrowed the field to one variety of red, pink and white in upright, round and weeping flowering crabs.
The aesthetics of my crabapples have evolved to the status of both light and hot pink bloom, on a red leaf that holds its intensity till fall. I also have a white flowering crab that holds its bright gold eighth of an inch fruit through February.
This makes excellent birdfeed. None of my crabapples have fruit bigger than a quarter-inch, and the colors include red, gold, yellow and orange.
Most of the crabapples are round lawn trees with a mature diameter of 12-to-15 feet while some are narrow upright trees for lining streets or driveways. Some are multiple-stemmed (or clump form) for privacy screen and others are weeping and a focal point in the landscaping.
The disease issues that plagued this species before has pretty much become a thing of the past, through 40 years of genetic hybridization. Slowly but surely we’ve arrived at the intersection of effort and opportunity and both streets are lined with beautiful, no mess, flowering crabapple, that possess the bloom, leaf, fruit, shape and disease resistance that you want.
These trees are truly outstanding in their field — field number two, that is, on the south end of the nursery.
Dudley Wooten can be reached at 740-820-8210 or by visiting wootenslandscaping.com.