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The Monday Garden
Sharing: Crabapples

Issue No. 140 - November 28, 2004
by Sue Sweeney

Thanksgiving and crabapples are a good match. Last year's Thanksgiving issue noted that "sides" such as yams and crabapple jelly are good to eat, but " 'cides" (e.g. pesticides) are not.
Picture: this ancient crabapple gracing the lawn of Stamford's First Presbyterian Church is not sprayed. June 2004
Last year's issue also talked about growing crabapples without 'cides. It's easy; Mother Nature does it all the time, as documented by the pictures in this year's article. Growing crabapples without 'cides is actually easier than making apple pie if you get one of the new disease-resistant hybrids. Plant in full sun in well drained soil; mulch well and water when dry.

None of the crabapples in our local parks get sprayed but they do just fine, thank you. Ditto those that grow wild along the roads and in the woods, including the adorable little one in Stamford, CT's Hoyt Street Alley. The wild ones are mostly descendants of our native varieties which were here long before 'cides were invented.

Picture: Same tree as above, Nov. 2004.
If I had a yard (or even a full sun balcony), if I could have only one tree it would be a crabapple. Awesome flowers for the pollen eaters (and me) in the spring, plus vitamin-rich buds for the squirrels. Gnarled branches for the birds and squirrels to nest in summer, and for me to enjoy in the winter. In the fall, lovely fruit for everyone, and dried fruit through late winter for the hungry. So what if the bugs take their share, too? Making crabapple jelly is a lot of work, so I'd rather leave the fruit for the birds, squirrels and wasps who can't buy what they need at the grocery store.
Picture: Some crabapples get so red in the cool late fall weather that they look caramelized. This young tree is in a vest-pocket park at the corner of Hoyt and Strawberry Hill in Stamford, CT. It's 'cide-free and look at the fruit. There's a row of crabapples like this at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens that host a flock of cedar waxwings every fall.
pictures: same tree as above in April 2004 with last year's remaining fruit and in May 2004 after flowering; a street crabapple on Bedford Street, May 2004. The bark is lovely.
pictures: This crabapple grows wild behind the Stamford CT's First Presbyterian Church parking lot. May and August 2004.
pictures: This delicate wild crabapple grows at the base of the shag bark hickory in the now-famous Hoyt Street Alley, Stamford, CT. The little tree feeds the critters but is endangered by mega-invasive porcelain vine.
Sharing the yard is a wonderful thing. By choosing plants that aren't just "pretty faces" but which also provide edibles and habitat throughout the year for the rabbits, woodchucks, birds, squirrels and their associates, the earth becomes as fruitful as it was intended. The original garden had all the animals as well as all the plants; our gardens also come alive when inhabited by a variety of species. Remember, though, what the birds eat, they spread; so stick to native plants that we want to spread -- not imports that could become our next invasive plant plague.

pictures: The Homer Lee Wise Memorial vest-pocket park, Stamford CT, again no 'cides and a fine tree. Some of the apples have gone bad but there are plenty left.

So give thanks for the earth on which we live by curtailing the use of 'cides and by making the Thanksgiving "sides" from 'cide-free organically-grown produce.



Picture: The First Presbyterian Church crabapple marks the season 2003-2004

From The Monday Garden. Copyright © by Sue Sweeney. Reproduced with permission. 

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