Of Crab Apple Heaven, Forest High-Rises And Bad Press

First: the bad press. Lately I have been finding myself increasingly infuriated by the partial reporting and drip-drip narratives that the UK and US mass media have been turning out on matters of international importance. War mongering is the name of the game, and you will find it now in the broadcasts of once respectable and respected organs of communication. When governments and the press start scape-goating on the scale we are now seeing, we need to ask in whose interests they are actually acting; as in: who benefits?

But there is only so much fury one can take, so I’m turning my attention to crab apple blossom. And also to initiatives by people who are intent on making our human jungles into life-enhancing environments rather than wiping life off the face of the planet. On BBC’s Gardener’s World last week there was a feature on Milan’s Bosco Verticale – the arboreal tour de force (in all senses) by architect Stefano Boeri. You can find out all the ins and outs of the enterprise at Bosco Verticale.


One of the primary aims, apart from the provision of green high-density housing, was to reduce pollution levels in Milan. But of course – introduce vegetation and there are all manner of benefits – increase in biodiversity, and the creation of beautiful living spaces in places where you least expect to find them. Trees in the air – how wonderful is that. And in case you’re wondering why the crab apple intro, then crab apple trees are included in the planting of the Bosco Verticale.

The tree in my photos is Evereste , one of the several small varieties that grow to no more than 3 metres. We had to move it a couple of years ago, and were worried it might not survive. But here it is, boldly flowering by our rear garden fence. I love the many shades the flowers pass through – from cerise buds to white full blooms. I also recently learned you can buy crab apple varieties that are suitable for hedging. Can you imagine – a blossom and apple hedge – as wonderful as forests in the sky.

But back to Gardener’s World.  Bosco Verticale features at around 16 minutes and again at around 48 minutes:


November Sky With Crab Apples


Crab apples as caught in yesterday’s afternoon sun. There’s a bit of story here too. This year the fruit on our Evereste crab apple tree is absolutely tiny, nothing like the giant size suggested by the photo. But this is good, because it makes us think that the tree has survived  being moved back in the early summer. Hurrah! It has produced fruit, albeit apples of elfin proportions.

All through last winter we had ummed and ah-ed about doing something so rash and ruthless as digging up this lovely little tree. I had planted it not long after we moved to  Much Wenlock ten years ago. It was the star of an ugly and awkwardly large, raised bed at the back of the house. (You’ve probably seen the crab apple/blossom photos in earlier posts).

In the end we decided to risk it. Graham pruned back much of the  top growth, and then effectively dismantled the flower bed around the roots while I dug a big hole at the top of the garden.  The transplanting all had to be done double-quick. Then we firmed it in, stamped on the soil to get rid of any air pockets, and gave it lots of water. The final proof of success will be next spring. Will it ever flower again? I think it will.


September in my garden


This year, for some reason, the Japanese anemones have decided to take on their close neighbour, the Japanese crab apple tree, in a ‘let’s see who can grow tallest’ contest.

Admittedly, the tree is a small one,  three metres at most, but some of  the anemones are already two metres tall.

This is the kind of gardening I love: where the plants come up with their own ideas. I did not plant the anemones directly under the tree. They seem to have moved in there by themselves, and now use the tree’s protecting arms as they grow ever taller.

Nor is this a colour scheme I would have thought of concocting – pale pinkish-purple, russet red and green. But somehow it’s very pleasing, and especially on the dull days we’ve been having lately.

Every day, too,  I see the tiny crab apples turning a deeper shade of red: perfect Garden-of-Eden miniatures,  which reminds me of a comment made by Melanie at My Virtual Playground. One of the times I featured my crab apples she told me they were called pommes sauvages in French – wild apples – an altogether much prettier name. I agree. Although my ‘wild’ ones have been much inbred, and don’t have quite the same sense of abandon of the truly wild ones found in our field hedgerows.


The tree is Malus Evereste by the way. It is glorious in spring too. (You’ve seen the picture). It’s growing in a tall bed which gives us an all-year good view from the kitchen French windows.


Elsewhere in the garden things are  looking a little dreary round the edges, but there is still some stalwart blooming going on. The red geraniums look bright in the garden pots despite the recent downpours, as does this lovely penstemon:


I think it’s my favourite version of this most obliging plant. If you cut down the stems after flowering, in a few weeks time you get another showing, perhaps more vigorous than the first. This variety is called Apple Blossom, but it makes me think of raspberry ripple ice cream – a rather shivery thought on this gloomy day.

Growing in the bed just behind Apple Blossom, you can see Teasing Georgia. She’s in bud again too. This is such a lovely rose, and opens into dense whirls and whorls of pale gold.

I’m hoping she’ll open before the weather turns weirder than it already is. Forecasters are now promising us the coldest winter ever. But endlessly prone to optimism, I’m further hoping that this is the same order of forecast that in March promised us a barbecue summer and drought. (Hands up all of you in England who managed to fit in more than one barbecue between the wind and showers).


Our garden is all over the place and on different levels. This is because circa 1830 the house was built into a steep bank between the field behind, and the road in front.  Later occupants then dug out a rear yard, and added a tall terrace bed, and behind it, a high retaining wall.

I have yet to get to grips with gardening in so many dimensions, which is why I rather depend on the garden to follow its own design. I also notice that it is devising its own timetable. For instance, what does this June-blooming foxglove think it is doing amongst the late summer rudbeckia?


Just to the left of the foxglove is the dead head of meadowsweet. It has a pink flower, which also surprised me this year. This is something else the garden has come up with: creating (somehow) a very vigorous hybrid from the original wild, and cream-flowered meadowsweet that I originally planted.

I shall definitely encourage the new version, and plant out any seedlings. It is a statuesque creation, very tall, and softly scented. Also Meadowsweet, apart from being used to flavour beer and deserts, has its place in Welsh legend. In the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, the 11th century transcription of age-old tales, there is the dark story of Blodeuwedd (flower-face), a beautiful woman created by the magicians, Math and Gwydion from the flowers of oak, broom and meadowsweet. The tale does not end well. Blodeuwedd (pronounced: blod-EYE-weth) is also the name for owl, a fact, along with a reworking of the Mabinogion story, that was famously explored in teen fiction by Alan Garner in The Owl Service.

And thinking of  flower-faces, here are two growing in a pot by the old privies (now our two dysfunctional  garden sheds – i.e much head-banging on lintels, followed by standing in one’s own light so you can’t see what’s in there). These sunflowers have taken ages to come out, but it’s nice to see them at last, and especially now the real sun has gone away. It’s hard not to smile back at them, isn’t it?


Happy Wednesday!

Inspired by (but with added fruit)  Cee’s Flower of the Day


Thursday’s Special: Seeing Red

I’m in love with the Japanese crab apple tree in my garden at Sheinton Street. There is hardly a moment in the year when it does not give pleasure. Even now in February there are still a few tiny apples on its bare branches – minimally disposed like a left over Christmas tree that someone forgot to undress. The black bird still visits, although by now the apples have been frosted and lost their bloom.

But then I also know that by the time the last one has fallen, there will be tight rosy-red buds bursting to make the next crop, bees permitting. And while I think of it, I’m grateful to fellow blogger, Mélanie at Mon Terrain de Jeux who tells me that crab apples sound much lovelier in French, and I agree – pommes sauvages.

On the other hand, my little tree is so finely wrought and well bred, and its fruit so exquisite, that I can imagine no situation when it might be tempted to wildness – unlike its large, unruly English cousins that grow in our farm hedgerows. Those I raid in October for their not so pretty fruit to make jars of crab apple jelly. (How could I possibly pick my own pommes sauvages?). The jelly is delicious on toast and croissants, and the jars glow like jewels as the hot jelly is poured into them. Mmmm.

More things to look forward to then: blossom, bees, pommes sauvages, toast…


For Paula’s Thursday’s Special challenge ‘Red’ at Lost in Translation