The Robinson Crab Apple Tree is a beautiful spring-flowering tree that is highly recommended for every garden, but especially for colder areas, where other spring-flowering trees are not reliable. This hardy and disease-resistant tree grows only 15 feet tall and wide, eventually reaching perhaps 25 feet under ideal conditions. This makes it the perfect choice for the smaller garden, where traditional shade trees would grow too large. In smaller gardens it is important to grow plants that have interest in several seasons, and the Robinson Crab Apple certainly has that.
In April or May, depending on where you live, your tree will burst into bloom, covered in a brilliant display of deep-pink flowers. The large flowers are 1½ inches across, and they are carried in clusters of many flowers, all along the bare branches. As a prelude to blooming you will see the buds swell, and turn dark burgundy, before opening wide to show their colors. The flowers are dark rose when they first open, and they gradually age to light pink, becoming paler and paler until they are almost white. All stages may be on the tree at once, creating a color festival. This is only the beginning of the seasonal interest of the Robinson Crab Apple.
Next, as the flowers fade, the leaf clusters begin to push out. The young leaves are bold purple, bringing a new color phase, and gradually, as the new shoots expand, the leaves turn deep green, with red veins. In fall they put on a last display, turning bright orange in most years. In late summer you will see the first signs of the bright red fruits, looking like cherries, but really being small, sour apples. These become more noticeable and showy as the leaves fall, and once the tree is bare they become very prominent, and hang well into the winter, adding yet more color and interest to the garden. In time they will provide food for hungry birds during the cold weather.
Growing Robinson Crab Apple Trees
The Robinson Crab Apple makes the perfect specimen tree on a lawn, or among smaller shrubs. It casts a light shade when in leaf, so it becomes the perfect tree to sit under in summer, if you have no room for a larger tree. It is not, however, recommended for planting in or beside a patio, as the fruits can fall and stain stonework or wood. It also makes a wonderful background tree in the corners of a garden, adding interest before the rest of the garden is fully in bloom, and continuing late into fall and winter.
Planting and Initial Care
Grow the Robinson Crab Apple in full sun or partial shade. It will grow well in most ordinary garden soils, just so long as they are not constantly wet. Add plenty of organic material to sandy or clay soils, and then mulch each spring with compost or something similar. Pruning is not usually necessary – the tree is most picturesque left to develop naturally into a rounded crown. If you do prune, do this in winter or during dry periods in summer. Do not prune in spring, as this may open the tree to disease infection through fresh cuts. Rake up and destroy the leaves in fall, as this too helps control leaf diseases. This tree is known for its resistance to the common apple diseases, so it normally remains healthy with no special attention at all.
Uses in the Kitchen
Many people like to harvest their garden for the kitchen, and the Robinson Crab Apple makes this easy. The ripe fruits can be picked and turned into aromatic and delicious jelly, which will be a beautiful pink color from the skins. This beautiful jam keeps for months and you can enjoy it for breakfast in the depths of winter, bringing back memories of your tree in bloom, and thoughts of the coming season.
History and Origins of the Robinson Crab Apple Tree
Crab apples are related to eating apples, but they come from different species, of which there are many, growing all the way from Europe through Central Asia and into China. Many hybrids between different species have been created over many years, and it is often difficult or impossible to identify the origins of the trees we grow in our gardens.
The variety ‘Robinson’ originated at an old family nursery in Indianapolis, Indiana. The nursery was founded by Benjamin Albertson in 1812. Cyrus May Hobbs, who took over in 1879 gave the nursery his name – C.M. Hobbs Inc. The nursery still operates today, and ‘Robinson’ was created there in the 1980s. It soon became popular and desirable for its combination of great colors and disease resistance.
Our trees are produced by grafting stem pieces from correctly-identified plants of ‘Robinson’ onto special apple roots developed to give vigor and hardiness to the resulting trees. This tree is sought after by gardeners, and rarely available, so we know our stock will soon be gone. Order now while we still have some plants to ship you.