Crabapples are a great source of food for winter birds. I’ve noticed, some years, that my crabapple has a huge crop hanging on its bare branches, and it seems to go unnoticed by the birds for many weeks. Then suddenly, it’s discovered and within a day, the fruit are gone. Starlings seem to love them especially.
It takes a lot of a tree’s energy to mature a crop of crabapples. Some varieties hardly grow any new foliage or branches in years when they have a heavy crop. Conversely, if there’s little crop (for example, after a late freeze destroys the bloom), a tree can really grow like crazy.
I would never seek to eliminate crabapple crop because of its value to birds, and because the plant growth regulator that does that (Florel) is applied when the tree is in bloom, causing the flowers to drop. Seems pointless to grow a crabapple when you eliminate its two most attractive features!
Florel is great for eliminating true nuisance fruit, though. Liquidamber pods, those spiking things that you used to play with as a kid, are a good example. Few homeowners use Florel, because they have trouble getting a sprayer that can reach up into a tree. So most people ask a yard servicer to do it.
By late February nearly everyone is ready for spring to arrive. Cloudy, gloomy days bring a yearning for the bright colors and happy thoughts of spring. You can speed the process along by forcing flowering branches indoors. Even in a mild winter such as this one, by now most spring-flowering shrubs have received enough hours of cold to break dormancy once warm temperatures arrive. You can trick them into blooming early by cutting stems with plump buds (flower buds are thicker and rounder than leaf buds), and taking them into the warmth of your home.
Prune off pencil-width stems full of buds. Plunge the base of cut stems into warm water after stripping buds from the portion of the stem that will be under water. Keep the cut twigs at room temperature or slightly cooler to force them into flower. Change the water twice per week to keep it fresh. Within a few days to several weeks, depending on the time of winter and species of flowering shrub, your spring-in-a-vase will burst into bloom–an event that’s sure to bring smiles to the faces of those who see it.
Trees and shrubs that bloom earliest outdoors are the easiest and fastest to force indoors. Forsythia, flowering quince, redbud, pussy willow, and serviceberry are good choices for first-time forcers. But crabapple, lilac, and kousa dogwood will work, too. They just take a little longer.
This year I’m getting a jump on spring by forcing forsythia branches. The shrub needed pruning anyway. Rather than tossing the branches in the woodchip pile, I decided to enjoy them in flower first. I’m having fun watching the progression of swelling buds, and can hardly wait for the first bud to burst into full flower.
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blooms, crabapple, Daffodil, dogwood, flowering cherry, flowering quince, Flowering Shrub, forcing, forsythia, Lilac, pussy willow, redbud, serviceberry, spring
Today is a very important day with long-lasting consequences. And I’m not talking about the royal wedding. It’s national Arbor Day.
While individual states often encourage tree planting on other dates, the last Friday in April is set aside nationally as a time to better the environment by planting a tree. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for a flowering tree, a conifer, a small tree, or a specific type of tree, such as Japanese maple or flowering crabapple. Determine what type of tree is best for your site depending on what interests you, the space available, Hardiness Zone, and environmental adaptability of the tree, and get planting!
I learned a lesson in my own yard about choosing the right tree for the right place. Six years ago when I moved into a new home, I planted hundreds of trees, shrubs, and perennials within a couple of weeks. (At last count I have 40 trees on my half-acre lot.) I could determine sun and shade patterns in the yard pretty easily, but it took me some time to learn about variations in soil conditions on the lot. As it turns out, I planted a ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) in an area with poor drainage. In that spot, the subsoil is blue clay, so moisture won’t sink in, even though there is a slope. I planted a black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) in a section of the yard that is well-drained with a tendency to become quite dry in late summer because of competition from nearby established pine trees. After five years of observing poor growth on these trees, last year I decided it was time to switch the trees’ locations, so I transplanted them. Black gum is native to swampy areas, while ginkgo is an upland tree that requires good drainage. This year I expect both trees to put on good growth because they’ll be better suited to the microclimate in which they’re planted. Perhaps in a few years they’ll catch up with the red maple which was planted at the same time, and has already grown to more than 25 feet tall.