Golden Raindrops crabapple trees (Malus transitoria Schmidtcutleaf).
Last spring I wrote a post called A robin experiment where I described bringing home dried-up crabapple fruits from the park to feed a hungry old robin. In that post, I expressed a desire to plant some crabapples trees in my garden.
Michael O’Loughlin (@molfamily), from Oregon, kindly responded to that post and recommended Golden Raindrops crabapple trees as the best for robins and birds in general. Golden Raindrops seem to be much more common in the Pacific Northwest, but I did find 2 at a local nursery this spring. They were obvious leftovers from last summer and therefore very reasonable, I think. I paid $79/tree, brought them home and planted them a couple weeks ago.
They are just starting to bud out, as can be seen in the photo above, taken on April 4. Can’t wait to see their white blossoms and yellow fruits. I’m told they should grow around 6″ per year.
The nearer tree is in shade more than the far tree. Its leaves are budding out perhaps 2 days slower than the other. Its roots are also more in the shade, as can be seen in the photo above (taken at 7:30 a.m. on April 10), so the soil temp may be colder. It will be interesting to observe the growth rate and general health of the 2 trees–1 with more sun and the other with less.
Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas W. Tallamy, is my goto book for native species, so I was happy to read there that crabapples are a case where non-native species are so similar in leaf chemistry to native species that native insects don’t distinguish. O happy day. Golden Raindrops crabapples are native to Tibet. On the downside, my tree guy warned me that crabapples are susceptible to cedar-apple rust. This is disappointing because I’m also very excited about recently planting 2 eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana), which supposedly carry the rust to the crabapples. Both species are affected by the cedar-apple rust, but the crabapples more so. Well, nothing is easy. On the bright side, several online sites report that Golden Raindrops crabapples have “excellent” resistance to cedar-apple rust. Time will tell.
In addition to attracting robins and other birds, and hopefully some native insects, perhaps some Lepidoptera species (Tallamy says 311 Lepidoptera species have been recorded on crabapples in the Northeast–awesome), Golden Raindrops sound just plain pretty, and I’m hoping these 2 trees provide a lovely and interesting screen for our deck.
Highlights of Golden Raindrops crabapples include an upright vase shape, pink buds opening to white flowers, bright yellow small fruit, and deeply cut, or lobed, leaves. Below is a close-up photo of the leaves on April 10. They are making progress.
Well, I’m trying to not get too excited about these trees. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I hope both the crabapples and the eastern red cedars get along without a cedar-apple rust problem. I hope in future to post photos of crabapple blossoms and fruits, and maybe even a robin’s nest in a crabapple tree, when the trees get a little bigger.