It has been quite a while since I posted about my dear crab apple tree. Summer is always a quiet time for it, anyway. Once the blossom fades in May it blends into the background providing some shade for the end of the garden and a dark green backdrop for other plants to shine.
It looked as good as ever this spring, covered in blossom and, with the introduction of an espalier eating apple into the garden, I was hopeful it would be a pollinator for it. But, whilst my new apple was happpily pollianted and produced our first tasty home-grown fruit, my crab apple has not faired so well. In June, July and August we had so much rain, day after day, that I rarely venutred out into the garden. If I did, it was for a hurried trip to the compost bin and to the shed to drop off some recycling. Then, one day it stopped raining and I finally got a chance to potter and whilst doing a spot of weeding I had a look at the crab. Oh, it didn’t look well. My first thought was not another tree to have to get cut down. We’re not doing well with trees so far, an ornamental cherry lost to canker, an acer lost to something undiagnosed, a silver birch that was just too big. I was beginning to wonder if I had some unwanted propensity for killing trees.
The leaves looked sickly, and I could barely see any fruit. I did wonder if it was the weather. The tree looks a little better now for some sun, but I can only describe it as looking a bit mangy; it’s had a hard year.
It should be dripping in fruit and they should be ripening nicely now but the weather has put paid to that. When it came into blossom at the end of April we suffered a cold snap. Late frosts and heavy rain meant there were no insects about to pollinate. This will certainly explain the lack of fruits and is a worrying example of what will happen in the future if we don’t protect our pollinating insects, such as honey bees. Those fruits that have appeared are much smaller than normal and scabby and I can only imagine this has been caused by the miserable summer.
For me, it means fewer lovely red apples to gaze at whilst I do the washing up this autumn and winter, but more importantly, the blackbirds and starlings that strip the tree of fruit from December into March, will be short of food this winter. I fear it will be a hard year for the birds and small mammals dependent on trees and hedgerows for their food. Hips, haws and berries are all scarce, certainly here, this autumn.
So, whilst the tree doesn’t look at its best and I’ll have to buy more bird food to make sure they don’t go hungry this winter, it is a relief that it just seems to be the weather that has caused my crab apple to look so bad this year, I don’t think I could face another visit from a tree surgeon.