We are blessed with an extended parade of flowering trees in the Northwest.
Starting in February, we get to enjoy the flowering plums and flowering pears, followed by all sorts of flowering cherries and several forms of magnolias. But as we move closer to the end of April, the pickings can get slim. Fortunately, this is exactly when the flowering crabapples come into bloom.
Although crabapples have been around forever, they have never really enjoyed a large following in the Northwest.
Perhaps by the time they come into bloom, gardeners are ready to move onto annuals and perennials. Another reason may be that, historically, crabs have been prone to disease and insects — and they had a propensity to send suckers all over the ground beneath them. They seem to be better suited for the east side of the state where it is hotter and drier.
Recent improvements in both crabapple varieties and sucker-resistant root stocks have changed the game for gardeners on the wet side of the state, and you should be perfectly confident in planting any of the following varieties in your garden.
If you are looking for a sweet, small flowering tree that extends the spring blooming season, consider any of the following crabapple varieties:
“Golden Raindrops”: This variety has pink buds that open to pure-white flowers. The foliage is unusual in that it is deeply cut (think “lobed”), which gives it a fine texture. In the fall the 15-by-15 foot tree is covered with tiny yellow apples that are adored by the birds.
“Royal Raindrops”: A variation on the above “Golden Raindrops,” “Royal Raindrops” has eye-popping magenta-pink blooms, deep red lobed leaves, sparkling red fruits and bright fall color. What is there not to like about this variety?
“Ruby Daze”: Rather than a rounded shape like the above varieties, “Ruby Daze” is more upright, growing 20 feet tall but only 15 feet wide. Foliage is purple, becoming bronze in the summer, with good orange-red color in the fall. Flowers are a bright magenta-pink and the ¼-inch fruit is deep red.
“Sparkling Sprite”: This compact little guy only reaches a mature height and width of 12 feet and forms a perfect globe shape. Pink buds open to white flowers that smother the dense, bright-green foliage. In the fall, tiny ¼-inch fruit slowly turns from golden yellow to orange. This is a perfect tree for a small yard.
“Ivory Spear”: Like the name implies, this is a very columnar variety growing 18 feet tall by only 7 feet wide. White flowers in spring are followed by dark green leaves in summer, with a change to yellow in the fall. Bright red ½-inch fruit make a nice contrast.
“Raspberry Spear”: Same as “Ivory Spear,” only with bright magenta flowers and purple foliage.
All of the above varieties are grown by J. Frank Schmidt company in Oregon and are grafted onto their sucker resistant root stock, which will save you a ton of heart ache (or should I say back ache) down the road.
Sunnyside also carries two weeping varieties, “Ruby Tears,” with dark pink flowers and red foliage, and “Louisa,” with lighter pink flowers and green foliage. Both trees will form a nice, small weeping focal point in your garden.
Give flowering crabapple trees a try in your garden this spring. They will not only extend the tree-blooming season, but will provide summer interest, excellent fall color and food for the birds in the winter. You just can’t lose with one of these new and improved flowering crabapples. Stay safe and keep on gardening.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two free classes
Sunnyside Nursery’s free gardening classes are online for now. A class on edible landscapes is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 17, followed by a class on colorful shrubs at 11 a.m. April 18 via Zoom. With registration, you’ll receive a Zoom link to attend the online class. For more information or to sign up, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes.