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The apple tree (Malus domestica) knows every child. It is the most commonly planted fruit tree in our latitudes and there are countless varieties of fruit. Less well known is his decorative brother, the ornamental apple. Like the popular fruit trees, it belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae).
The entire genus comprises about 35 wild species, which are distributed from North America to southern Europe and from Asia Minor to East Asia in the temperate latitudes of the entire northern hemisphere. In Central Europe, only one species is native - the wood apple (Malus sylvestris). It grows in alluvial forests, field copses, hedgerows (Knicks) and deciduous forests on fresh, nutrient-rich and profound loamy soils. However, it rarely occurs in pure nature in pure nature, since its genome is very often mixed with settlement apples near settlements. Incidentally, these do not come from wood apple, according to recent research, but have their ancestors in Asia Minor.
Appearance and growth
Among the most beautiful wild apples, which are also interesting for the garden design, include the Vielblütige apple (Malus floribunda), the Pflaumenblättrige apple (Malus prunifolia) and the tea apple (Malus hupehensis). In addition, there are some hybrids such as Malus x moerlandsii and Malus x zumi and now an estimated 400 garden species. Especially in the USA around the turn of the millennium, several new varieties with good gardening properties and acceptable resistance to scabs have emerged, which are only slowly being discovered in Europe.
Depending on the species and variety, ornamental apples usually grow between four and eight meters high. They grow rather upright as young plants, but can grow considerably in age and form spreading, sparse branched crowns. The bark of the shoots is light to dark brown or olive gray depending on the age. The flowers and fruits sit as with the culture apples on short, so-called fruit spits, which arise on the previous year's shoots and open their flowers in the following year. The simple to slightly filled peel flowers are clustered together and bear white, light pink or red petals. The heyday of all species and varieties is between late April and late May. The yellow or red fruits are cherry to walnut-sized and edible. Depending on the temperature, they adhere to the shoots far into winter. The leaves are mostly ovate to oblong-oval. They go around together with the flowers. Some varieties show a reddish budding, which only turns green during the summer. The autumn color is rather weak in most ornamental apples. The most beautiful, mostly yellowish shades shows the foliage of some Asian wild species.
The ornamental apple 'Rudolph' bears in spring pink flowers and red foliage, which turns green in summer
Location and ground
In soil and location, the ornamental apple is generally quite adaptable. He prefers loamy, humus rich substrates that should be nutrient-rich and not too dry. A sunny location is highly recommended, because here the flowering and fruit set is much better than in shadier locations.
As a so-called multi-season wood, the ornamental apple is predestined for the individual position. It impresses in the spring with rich flowering and in the autumn once again with its bright fruit decoration. It is particularly beautiful when it is planted with spring-flowering bulb flowers, which are color-matched to the apple blossoms.
Ornamental apples decorated with high-stemmed trees are suitable as shade dispensers for seating. A big advantage of the ornamental apple is its tolerant root system - the woodland can be planted without restrictions with all shrubs that tolerate partial shade or shade.
But the ornamental apple is also robust enough to plant in groups with other spring flowering plants. Suitable partners with about the same time flowering are for example noble lilac (Syringa) or Judas trees (Cercis siliquastrum). Maples and other beautiful autumn dyers accompany his second appearance at the end of the season.
Ornamental apples can be planted very well with other spring flowering plants. This specimen flowers with forget-me-nots, lunar violets and tulips
In the orchard, ornamental varieties such as 'John Downie' can significantly increase the harvest success. They are very good pollinators for the pollination of apple trees. In addition, you can process the small fruits in the fall to a very aromatic jelly.
All varieties also have a high ecological value: The nectar-rich flowers are heavily visited by bees and the fruits are an important winter food for blackbirds and other bird species.
The flowering branches of the woody plants are often used as vases for Easter and autumn.However, unlike the ornamental cherries, they are not suitable for driving.
Especially the Asian game species are also popular as bonsai.
The ornamental apple is as cut compatible as the related fruit trees. A regular cut is not necessary, however, because the fruit size and quality of ornamental apples does not matter. Occasional bleaching of the crowns after flowering is nevertheless recommended if your ornamental apple regularly suffers from scab. In a well ventilated and exposed crown, the leaves are more resistant to fungal disease.
Ornamental apples are like all apple hybrids and varieties propagated by special apple rootstocks. Although the sowing is also possible, but often the special characteristics of the respective breeding form are lost.
Diseases and pests
Ornamental apples are usually more robust than cultured apples. Nevertheless apple scab is a big problem for many older varieties. The species 'Red Sentinel' is considered to be largely resistant to scabbing. Mildew is an occasional occurrence, as well as the reportable fire blight. The caterpillars of the small frostbite and aphids are the most common animal pests.