Malus 'John Downie': wonderful spring blossom and beautiful autumnal fruit
We love trees. That’s hardly surprising- we are garden designers and we know how much the right tree can add to a well-designed garden. Providing height, structure, texture and colour, trees are definitely a must-have in the vast majority of the gardens we design for our customers.
Malus ‘John Downie’ is a wonderful deciduous tree. A beautiful crab apple, it tends to be relatively modest in size. In theory, M. 'John Downie' can grow to a height of 8-10m with a canopy width of about 4-6m, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one anything like that large in a UK garden. In my book that makes it well worth considering for all but the smallest of plots.
Happy growing in almost any soil types providing they are reasonably free-draining, M. ‘John Downie’ prefers a sunny location. It will cope with a bit of partial shade and is tolerant of relatively exposed positions. It has attractive mid-green oval leaves which provide excellent autumn colour when they gradually transform into a glorious yellow, orange and bronze display.
M. ‘John Downie’ is absolutely resplendent in April when it is covered in a blanket of small white blossom flowers (see image below). Emerging from light pink buds, the majestic blossom is much loved by bees, making it an ideal pollinator for any nearby apple trees. The pretty flowers are succeeded by small red and yellow fruit (see picture at the top of this page) which begin to mature in early autumn but last well into winter if left on the tree.
Being rather sour and acidic, the fruit tends to be ignored by our garden birds. This is definitely to our advantage because they look really magical on a bleak winter’s day. Hanging like delicate glass baubles on a Christmas tree, they are sure to brighten up any December garden.
They may be largely unpalatable in their raw state, but crab apples can be delicious if cooked with a little care. Exceptionally high in natural pectin, they are brilliant for helping to set jams and jellies. Crab apple jelly is easy to make (just add water and sugar) and absolutely delicious with cooked and cold meats.
My favourite use for crab apples is, however, crab apple liqueur. Made in the same way as sloe gin, it tastes delicious. Just add 100g of caster sugar for every 20 good-sized crab apples and steep in gin or vodka for at least two months, turning regularly. Strain into a sterilised bottle and enjoy either sipped on its own or mixed with a light tonic to make a ‘longer’ drink. Delicious.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.