Better plants for western gardens: White Fringe tree vs White Crabapples

Part of this post appeared in the March 2011 issue of Fine Gardening magazine. The topic: Instead of this overused plant, try this!

It’s hard to get past the spring glory of the ornamental crab apples, but once you realize they are hosts to the apple coddling moth, and , if you are growing apples to eat, you don’t want coddling moth issues, you may want to forgo growing ornamental crabs.

I’ve always loved the small, elegant stature of Malus sargentii and its exquisite spring blossoms, but I’ve found a show stopping alternative in Chionanthus virginicus, the American fringe tree. Considered a large shrub or small tree, this tree dazzles. A Great Plant Pick ™, in late spring it is explodes with a frothy display of white panicles, six to eight inches long. The flowers give way to medium or dark green semi-glossy leaves and small dark blue drupes in the fall. If that isn’t enough, it has handsome gray brown bark patterns, a lovely open vase shape, and muted yellow autumn foliage. z 4-9, Up to 20 feet tall x 10 feet wide. Loves moist soil but fairly drought tolerant once it is well established.

Here’s the crab apple, ‘Tina’

And then there is this exotic beauty, and if you grew it, you’d be stylin’

(photo courtesy of Monrovia)