Crab apples are high on the list of must-have ornamental trees for colourful autumn fruits, and they serve a multitude of purposes.
First is their potential for pollinating culinary and dessert apple varieties, thanks to a long flowering period.
The spring blossom and autumn fruits will brighten any border, and even after we’ve picked a lion’s share of the harvest for preserve-making, there’s plenty left for the birds.
A current visit to the Alnwick Ornamental Garden is greeted by row upon row of two key cultivars – Malus Red Sentinel and Evereste.
There are also two stand-alone specimens that catch the eye. M. Golden Hornet has an abundance of bright yellow fruits that hang on deep into November, and M. sargentii is a mass of small, cherry-like, red apples.
One positive aspect of birds ingesting autumn fruits is the eventual appearance of seedlings that turn into young plants and are free of charge.
Apples are fruit of the moment and last week, with friend Trevor’s agreement, I picked one fruit from each of the TAG heritage varieties, 11 in all, and laid them alongside 10 from our collection.
An impressive sight, but they still represented a tiny fraction of the number in existence.
Most impressive was the apple that influenced Isaac Newton’s 1665 thoughts about gravity as he watched it fall. It is believed to have been called Flower of Kent from 1629, but received his name thereafter.
The tasting of 21 apples is not easy, but someone had to do it.
Main conclusions: Dog’s Snout is a mid-19th century Yorkshire apple with an interesting appearance, but not very tasty, whereas Golden Nugget, introduced in 1932, deserves to be on the supermarket shelves.
A dessert variety, it’s on a par with our current favourites Discovery and James Grieve in terms of taste, though perhaps not everyone would agree!