April 4, 2007


Crabapples are King in Zone 5

A few good days of sunshine and warm weather makes us drop everything and rush outdoors. Chicagoans were walking around in a daze a few days ago when the temperature reached a balmy 70 degrees.

If you haven't made plans for your garden yet, now is the time to do so because the sunny days of May , when the danger of frost is past, will soon be here and planting can begin in earnest. Many experienced gardeners and landscapers plant hardy trees and shrubs as early as April.

If you are starting your garden from scratch, or just want to add to it, give your attention first to a tree , which creates the framework of the garden.

For the small urban garden I would recommend the following ornamentals that are hardy in Zone 5, most prefer sun , but some will do well in partial shade : Amelanchier canadensis, or serviceberry, is a deciduous tree with a rounded form and bears clusters of white flowers in early Spring. It's small edible berries are attractive to birds. Cercis canadensis , or Eastern Redbud, has lavender pink flowers in early Spring , followed by beautiful heart-shaped leaves . 'Forest Pansy', a cultivar with purple bronze leaves, is my favorite. Cornus florida, or the American flowering dogwood is a beautiful tree with horizontal branches and lovely showy white or pink blooms that announce that Spring is here. Cornus Mas, or Japanese Dogwood, has soft yellow fuzzy blooms in Spring and is a nice pyramidal-shaped tree ideal for small spaces. Cornus Kousa , the Asian Dogwood, is very hardy for the Chicago area because it blooms later than the American variety.

A favorite of mine and of course every proper Southern transplant like me has GOT to have one, is the magnolia. Magnolia Lilliflora, 'Little Girl hybrids' are hardy for Zone 5 and only reach 10-15 feet. They have the same red-purple bloom as the bigger Magnolias. I have a 15 year old 'Betty' in my garden, but her sisters, Ricki, Ann, Susan, Jane and Judy are all good performers as well.

Washington, D.C. is known for it's Cherry trees but in the Midwest, Crabapples are King. A few years back the Crabapples were hit hard by fungal disease and growers have been busy developing disease-resistant ones. There's nothing like a Crabapple with its fragrant white or pink blossoms, attractive foilage, colorful fruit or berries, interesting growth habit. There are over 650 cultivars ranging from 6 to 30 '.

For those with partial shade, Japanese maples, which come in an array of colors and forms are ideal ornamental trees for the urban garden.


  1. I love crabapples but have never been able to find one with a really good scent like the wild ones that used to grow in Noccalula Falls park in Gadsden, which you may be familiar with.

  2. I have fond memories of the beautiful Spring flowers and fragrance of the Southern crabapple.

    Unfortunately, Malus Angustifolia, or Southern Wild Crabapple, is not recommended for the home landscape because of insect and disease problems.

    Thanks for visiting from my Sweet Home Alabama.


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