Crabapples are wonderful trees for the landscape because they are beautiful through all four seasons.
In the spring, they are most amazing! A crabapple in full bloom is nearly unsurpassed in beauty by any other spring blooming tree. By carefully choosing different cultivars and hybrids, you can achieve a long season of spring bloom extending even into June. Crabapples make wonderful understory shade trees with attractive foliage through the summer season, and come fall, the brilliant autumn color comes not from foliage but from the colorful dangling fruits which stand out even more once the leaves drop; shades of red, orange, and yellow just like autumn leaves!
Many of these fruits will persist into winter (if the birds don't devour them all) adding color to the beautiful silhouette of the leafless trees.
The crabapples are a very diverse group of trees. They vary in flower color (white to shades of pink to red) and timing of bloom, in fruit color (red to orange to yellow, even green) and also fruit size. Different sizes and shapes of the trees themselves also add to their diversity.
One of the great benefits of having some beautiful crabapples in your landscape is that the fruit provides an excellent source of food for the wild birds in the area. Many different birds will be attracted to your home including waxwings, bluebirds, wrens, robins, and mockingbirds. According to Andre, the small fruited varieties (fruit less than 3/4") are preferred by birds.
Watch Mark Viette's video tip on attracting birds to your landscape.
Many years ago, Andre's dear friend and fellow plantsman, the late Alex Summers, gave him 30 small fruited crabapple seedlings specifically selected for Andre to plant in the garden for the birds. Every fall, flocks of cedar waxwings, robins, and other bird species visit the Viette gardens to feast on the bountiful crop of these beautiful crabapples. The fruit is a little hard in the beginning, but after a few freezes they shrivel a bit and soften up making them much easier for the birds to eat! The squirrels, chipmunks, and deer enjoy the larger crabapples especially after they fall from the tree.
When choosing crabapple varieties to plant in your landscape, be sure to check for disease resistance. Many crabapple varieties are prone to diseases like rust, fire blight, powdery mildew, apple scab, and leaf spot. However, there are loads of beautiful disease resistant hybrids to choose from. Andre has compiled a list of over 60 different named varieties that are his favorite disease resistant crabapples.