Tag Archive: spring flowers

On a recent visit to Tavistock, I went over to see how the extended ‘Devon Wall’ I’d seen some months ago was looking…though mainly shades of green now, as most flowering is in the spring time, it was looking superb. Well done that gardener!

Old School Gardener



Malus is a genus of about 30–55 species of small deciduous trees, including the domesticated orchard apple (M. domestica) and varieties of crab apple (including the ‘wild apple’, M. sylvestris). This profile focuses in particular on the crab apples. 

Common name:  Non domestic orchard apples are generally known as crabapples, crab apples, crabs, or wild apples.

Native areas: The genus is native to the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere.

Historical notes: In the past, M. sylvestris was thought to be an important ancestor of the cultivated orchard apples (M. domestica), but these have now been shown to have been originally derived from the central Asian species M. sieversii. However, another recent DNA analysis showed that M. sylvestris has contributed to the ancestry of modern M. domestica very significantly.

Features: Domestic orchard apple trees are typically 4–12 metres tall at maturity, with a dense, twiggy crown. The leaves are 3–10 cm long, alternate, simple, with a serrated margin. The flowers are borne in corymbs, and have five petals, which may be white, pink or red, usually with red stamens that produce copious pollen. Domestic apple trees are large if grown from seed, but small if grafted onto roots (rootstock). There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of domestic apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics. Crab apples tend to be smaller than domestic apple trees at around 5 – 7 metres tall, with a rounded profile.

Uses:  Crab apples make ideal specimen trees for small gardens. They are popular as compact ornamental trees, providing blossom in Spring and colourful fruit in Autumn. The fruits often persist throughout Winter. Numerous hybrid cultivars have been selected, of which ‘John Downie’, Evereste’ and ‘Red Sentinel’ have gained The Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Award of Garden Merit’ (AGM):

Malus sylvestrisarguably, one of the UK’s prettiest native trees, a small crab apple (or ‘wild apple’) with profuse white flowers, tinged pink in bud, and with good yellow autumn colour. Yellow/ green and occasionally red flushed fruit are a bird’s favourite in the autumn. Ideal for native mixed plantings or shelter belts that provide great low cover for wildlife.

Malus floribundathe ‘Japanese Crab’ is most elegant, with early white/pale blush flowers from crimson buds. However, it is prone to apple scab after flowering, resulting in a rather threadbare crown. Because of this it has tended to be superceded by more disease resistant clones such as ‘Rudolph’ and ‘Evereste’.

Malus ‘Evereste’ – introduced in the early 1980’s this rounded tree has profuse flowers that are red in bud before turning white. The small fruit look like miniature ‘Gala’ and are held on until they are taken by birds after Christmas. The orange-yellow autumn foliage also holds well.


 M. ‘John Downie’ – raised in 1875, this is thought by many to be the best fruiting crab. with an irregular oval crown it makes a splendid tree for a small space. White flowers are followed by relatively large, conical-shaped orange-red fruits, which have a food flavour if required for preserves or jelly.

M. x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’– in cultivation since 1959, this profusely fruiting crab is a favourite for gardeners who are looking for winter colour. In some years the clusters of dark red fruits are so numerous that the branches can weigh too heavily so that the crown loses its shape. I have one growing in Old School Garden; it is great alongside other winter interest such as red and orange- stemmed Cornus, and its fruits are useful in Christmas decorations such as front door wreaths. In spring, the red leaves contrast well with its white flowers.

M. x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’ – this well-known crab has been in cultivation for over 60 years and is highly regarded for its profuse display of yellow, marble-sized fruits, which are retained for many weeks. These are preceded by white blossom; a very good ‘all rounder’.

M. ‘Rudolph’ – A Canadian crab developed in the 1950’s, this medium size tree is rather columnar when young, but becomes rounder with maturity. It has leaves which gradually turn from copper-red to bronze-green and rose- pink flowers, which give way to numerous elongated fruits. Autumn leaf colour is clear yellow and it is resistant to scab; a tree which packs a lot of plusses into a small package!

Growing conditions:  Grow Crab apples in moderately fertile soil, though many will thrive on most soils and some are better suited to heavier soils, such as M. sylvestris. They will tolerate partial shade.

Further information:

Wikipedia- Malus

RHS- Malus sylvestris

RHS- Malus ‘Evereste’

RHS- Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

RHS- Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’

Barcham Trees Directory- Malus ‘Rudolph’

Choosing a Crab apple- Daily Telegraph

Old School Gardener

Lukeswood- Chair Mary Feeney and Vice Chair John Ibbetson

Lukeswood- Chair Mary Feeney and Vice Chair John Ibbetson

I’ve been a judge on the UK ‘Green Flag’ scheme for about 5 years now. Over the last week I’ve visited two open spaces to assess their applications so I thought I’d share something about the scheme and the sites I’ve visited, which are interesting examples of the sorts of place that are hoping to secure a ‘Green Flag’.

The Green Flag Award® scheme is the benchmark national standard for parks and green spaces in the UK. Currently run by the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ organisation, it was first launched in 1996 to recognise and reward the best green spaces in the country. The first awards were given in 1997 and, 16 years later, it continues to provide the benchmark against which UK parks and green spaces are measured. It is also seen as a way of encouraging others to achieve high environmental standards, setting a standard of excellence in recreational green areas. Entries for the Green Flag Award® are open to parks or green spaces located in the UK, though the scheme is also being piloted in The Netherlands and Germany.

Green Flag Award® applications are judged against eight key criteria:

1. A welcoming place – when approaching or entering the park/green space, the overall impression for any member of the community – regardless of the purpose of their visit – should be positive and inviting.

2. Healthy, safe and secure – the park/green space must be a healthy, safe and secure place for all members of the community to use. Any issues that have come to light must be addressed in the management plan and implemented on the ground. New issues that arise must be addressed promptly and appropriately.

3. Clean and well maintained – for aesthetic as well as health and safety reasons, issues of cleanliness and maintenance must be adequately addressed.

4. Sustainability – methods used in maintaining the park/green space and its facilities should be environmentally sound, relying on best practices available according to current knowledge. Management should be aware of the range of techniques available to them, and demonstrate that informed choices have been made and are regularly reviewed. 

5. Conservation and heritage – particular attention should be paid to conservation and appropriate management.

6. Community involvement – the park/green space management should actively pursue the involvement of members of the community who represent as many park/green space user groups as possible.

7. Marketing –  a marketing strategy should be in place, which is being implemented and regularly reviewed; there should be good provision of information to users (e.g. about management strategies, activities, features, ways to get involved),  and the space should be promoted as a community resource.

 8. Management – there needs to be a management plan or strategy which is clear, being actively implemented and reviewed and the park should be financially sound.

There is a main scheme and also schemes for Community run and Heritage Green spaces, which have slightly different sets of assessment criteria. The main scheme usually involves two judges making the assessment, whilst at community spaces a lone judge does this.  In the main scheme a ‘desk assessment’ of the Management Plan for the site is carried out and this is followed up with a ‘field assessment’ which gives the chance to check out questions arising from the desk assessment and to examine other issues on the ground. Applicants have to pass both the desk and field assessments and achieve a minimum score to be awarded a ‘Green Flag’. Judges don’t only give scores to the space but also look at the strengths it has against the different criteria and include recommendations designed to help the site improve, where appropriate. This full feedback is, I think, one of the best features of the scheme.

Yesterday I travelled to Suffolk to judge a community – run green space in the village of Elmswell, called ‘Lukeswood’. I was met by the Chair and Vice Chair of ‘Elmswild’ (the group that runs the wood) and given a tour of their site. Here, a group of volunteers aim to improve existing habitats and create new ones, so as to establish a mosaic of woodland, open grassy rides, hedgerows, pond and a wildflower area. The project is focused on involving and benefiting the local community as well as raising awareness of the rarest habitats and species on the site and educating about how these can be protected. Formerly an area of agricultural ‘set aside’ this space of about 9 acres is at the centre of the village next to allotments and cemeteries. Tree planting began in 2010. Early in 2011, with the help of children from Elmswell Primary School, the 1683rd tree was planted – fulfilling a pledge to plant one tree for every house in the village! Over the years the Group plan to plant many more. Lukeswood was named after the Reverend Luke, Rector of Elmswell in the 1860s – described as a ‘Victorian whizzkid’ who introduced many changes, including building the village school. The group like to think that, were he still here today, he would approve of their plans and would enjoy seeing this new addition to the village develop over the coming years. And thanks to continuing fund raising efforts Elmswild have finally succeeded in securing the remaining few acres of land where they plan to establish an orchard (featuring Suffolk varieties of apple).

Whilst I was in the area I popped over to Bury St. Edmunds, where another long-established Green flag site – the Abbey Gardens in the centre of town- is in it’s spring glory (though I wasn’t there to judge it for the Green Flag). It has a long established tradition of seasonal planting in many formal beds. At this time of year – especially as the spring flowers are blooming rather late – it is a fantastic sight. First laid out as a Botanic Garden in 1831, in addition to the formal layout of the central area, there is are open grass areas surrounding the Abbey ruins and an aviary, bowling green, bird feeding area, water, herb and sensory gardens, and a children’s play area.



Last week, with my co – judge, I visited and judged the woodland area known as ‘Pretty Corner Wood’ in north Norfolk. This is a site managed in two parts, one by the District Council (which was the focus of the green flag assessment) and the other part by the Woodland Trust. The wood sits adjacent to the town of Sheringham and provides a wonderful scene of mixed woodland and some glades and other areas, visited in the main by local residents. Recently the Council has been successful in securing funding to bring about a range of improvements to the wood which included putting in a new pathway suitable for wheelchair users that leads to a splendid view of the sea and wind farms on the horizon, as well as a wooden sculpture trail. The woodland is carefully managed to ensure the right mix and density of species and the Council has also sown a wild flower area close to the open glade that makes a great picnic spot. A privately run Tea Rooms also provides a convenient refreshment stop.

Of course I can’t give away any information about how these two sites have faired in this year’s judging, but suffice it to say that they both provide wonderful natural resources to their local communities and are clearly loved by those involved in running and improving them. Its this sort of commitment that not only creates great open spaces for everyone to enjoy today and into the future, but can generate fantastic community spirit.

Green Flag Award home page


Green Flag Award Website

Elmswild website

Pretty Corner Wood information

Abbey Gardens

Old School Gardener

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