Tag Archives: crab apples

Crab apples – choices for an autumn WOW!

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 16 October 2016.

Autumn fruits and berries are vibrant in gardens and hedgerows now. This week crab apples became one of my favourites: crab apples in yellow, orange, crimson and maroon are perfect cheer for autumn days. And they make wonderful jelly: so, what’s not to like?

I would like one in my garden. Which variety? And how to choose? Try this one of many websites that can help you choose one for yours. Here are some of the things to consider.

Choosing crab apple trees


These are The Thing now. Cheerful red, such as ‘Red Sentinel’, or bright and light yellow ‘Butterball’ . Fruits vary in size too: small and berry like on ‘Floribunda’ or the size of plums on ‘John Downie’.

crab apples
Malus John Downie – gorgeous to look at, and to make jellies: there is a quick recipe at the end of this blog.


In a garden many years ago I planted ‘Malus Floribunda’. It is also called ‘showy crab apple’ and the flowers were certainly a show stopper: soft pink with darker centres and so many that the tree looked as if it was covered in foam. Or try the dark red flowers that smother ‘Malus Cardinal’.

Leaf colour

The bronze leaves of ‘Malus Royalty’ are stunning from spring to autumn when deep red fruits add a shine. More common are the soft green leaves like ‘Malus Golden Hornet’ which make a great background to the fruit.

Shape and size

Some are upright and neat – great for a small space. Others spread into umbrella  or weeping shapes. These need more room for the best effect and can create a large area of dry ground underneath (no problem: plant bulbs for spring and autumn and ground cover plants there!). A decision on where the tree will be dictates the size and shape the garden can manage, but I do love the spreading look of ‘Malus Louisa’.

Whatever I choose, I need a tree on a ‘dwarfing rootstock’ (which means it won’t grow huge) for the garden spot I have in mind. Others will grow to 5 or 6 m high – lovely if you have the space.

What next?

There is no rush. I will keep looking at gardens and parks, visit garden centres and browse online catalogues. If I buy a pot grown tree I can plant it any time. But a bare root tree must be planted when the tree is dormant (the leaves and fruit have fallen and the tree has stopped growing for the winter). For crab apples that is between late October and early March, and I like to choose a time when the ground is soft and damp.

crab apples
Crab apples near Glewstone. Jonathan Billinger. Geograph 978786. Reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

And a nice idea as I write this blog – the crab apple ‘Wedding Bouquet’ has masses of ivory-white blossom in spring, and small dark red fruits in autumn. A perfect wedding present any time of year!

A recipe for crab apple jelly

  1. Wash and chop about 2kg unmarked apples in half.
  2. In a saucepan (not aluminium) just cover them with water and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer until the fruit is soft (how long this takes depends on the amount of apples, but reckon on 30 – 40 minutes).
  4. Remove from the heat and mash the fruit down. Carefully pour the pulp into a jelly bag and let it drip overnight into a steel, glass or plastic container (not aluminium).
  5. Do NOT squeeze the bag: that will make the juice and the jelly go cloudy.
  6. Measure the juice and for every 600ml of juice, add 450gm of warmed white granulated sugar in a good sized pan. Heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  7. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, or until setting point is reached.
  8. To test for setting point put 2 or 3 teaspoons of the jelly on a saucer in the fridge for 5 minutes. Run your finger over the top of the jelly: if a skin has formed that wrinkles with your finger the jelly has reached setting point. If not, keep boiling and try again.
  9. At setting point, remove the jelly from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars, adding wax covers and lids and store in a cool dry place.
  10. Enjoy this taste of autumn with scones and cream, on breakfast toast or when adding marzipan to rich fruit cakes.

Summer fruit is so delicious, with cream or without

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 10 July 2016.

Wimbledon and strawberries are on our minds today, and even if you are busy baking our white chocolate and strawberry cookies here’s a reminder of other summer fruit to enjoy!

Not far from my home, Runnington Fruit Farm is selling, and inviting passers by to pick-your-own, summer fruit – raspberries, gooseberries and currants. Mine aren’t quite ready, but I am poised to pick and enjoy. Meanwhile there is a job we all need to do to help ensure a good crop of apples, pears and plums.

Act now for autumn fruit!

Apple, pear and sometimes plum trees produce more baby fruit than they can support. ‘June drop’, when trees shed fruit, is nature’s way of reducing the number of fruit. Gardeners remove some small fruits to ensure that trees can carry their load without strain (plum trees can split under the weight of too heavy a crop) and help the tree produce good sized fruit rather than lots of tiny fruit.

Thin apples. Summer fruit
Thin apples – remove small and damaged fruits to help the tree grow good sized fruits. Sarah Buchanan


Apples thinned to two fruits. Summer fruit
Apples thinned to two fruits. Sarah Buchanan

Carefully nip off tiny fruit, fruit that is in any way damaged and fruit that is rubbing against another.

Summer fruit, summer berries

Gooseberries are such an easy plant. They just don’t need much room or attention. Following my Mother’s advice that no one needs more than three gooseberry bushes, I planted three. Two years later – what a crop! The plants are horribly thorny (thornless varieties do exist), need hardly any attention, and produce enough fruit for yummy tarts and pies, and some jars of tangy jam.

Gooseberries. Summer fruit
Gooseberries are a must. These thorny plants produce a great crop, but protect your hands and arms from the thorns when you pick the fruit. Sarah Buchanan.

Raspberries like a free draining soil  that is a little bit acid, and lots of water. Different varieites, and some attention earlier in the summer, can provide delicious fruit for three or four months that make every minute you spend well worth it. Nothing tastes quite as good as fresh raspberries on breakfast cereal, or with cream in the garden after all those July jobs are done.

And the berries that are the love of my life? Mulberries.

I was fortunate to take on an old mulberry tree. My neighbours thought me mad when I climbed as high as I could and picked buckets of fruit – until they tasted the fruit. It is delicious.

Mulberry fruits. Summer fruit
Mulberries in the US. By Geniac – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4350580

I have never seen these wonderful fruits on sale in the UK, I think because they rot quickly after picking. Pick and eat (or freeze) instantly was my approach. And I shared them with neighbours, and made many good friends through conversations that started with: ‘Would you like some mulberries…’.

If you can, plant a mulberry tree. I am told they take ten years or more to fruit. I have planted a tree in each of my gardens during the past 20 years in the hope that someone in the future will, as I did, discover and share the wonderful fruits.

And what about blackberries? Yes, there will be something on this great hedgerow and garden fruit later in the summer!

Summer fruit, summer currants

Black, red and white currants are a great summer pudding ingredient. Currant bushes are thirsty and so grow well in areas with lots of rain. They ripen in June and July – just the time for summer puddings and jams. Birds are attracted to the red currants – so it’s a race against time to pick the berries for your kitchen. These bushes need more room than gooseberries but are easy to grow. Old stems should be pruned out every few years to keep young healthy growth.  Pruning that keeps the bush in shape is useful – and one of my friends did that and picked the currants in one go: pruning stems laden with currants and taking them back to her garden table, sunhat and coffee.

See you there!