Looking down at the damaged weeping apple tree

About ten years ago, a customer of mine who lives near Fish Creek had some visitors in her garden. Normally gentle souls, temptation got the better of them and they ate most of the weeping branches off her apple tree. The tree survived—in fact, thrived—but now it looks very different.

Red Jade is this variety’s name. A good tree for Calgary, it can grow to approximately 15 feet high and equally as wide. Their growth habit has them looking like umbrellas. Or bells? A beautiful white bell covered in season with flowers.

Weeping plants grow branches that naturally bend back down towards the ground, hiding the trunk and making a secret place inside. Maybe it was the peace of that secret place the deer were after; we will never know.

Visualize the sight the next morning of this once balanced weeping tree, a prominent feature in her garden, with huge holes eaten into it. The secret place is no longer so, open for all to see.

A unique solution

Not all weeping crabapples are the same. Some form a narrow-topped umbrella and some are wider. The narrow ones’ branches tend to bend down as soon as they leave the trunk. Others grow outward and then bend back down. Red Jade is the wider type. With most of the weeping aspect of the tree gone, it wasn’t looking great as weepers go. Seen just as a live tree, there was still lots of good there, lots of life and vitality.

What we eventually decided to do was finish what the deer had begun. We pruned off all the remaining weeping and deer-damaged branches. The weeper is no more. It now looks more like a green flying saucer held to the ground by an apple trunk. This Tree is now quite striking, with a stronger visual impact than it had before.

Although the secret place is gone, the perennials that now grow under it look great. From above, it has a teardrop shape nearly ten feet wide at the trunk, that tapers to a rounded point some twelve feet away from the trunk. To maintain this one-of-a-kind shape, each year I remove any shoots that begin to weep from the bottom side, as well as any shoots from the top that want to grow upward.

Crabapple lemonade?

This is a classic “making lemonade” story. Knowing that the tree had the strength to take a bit more pruning, we pushed farther through and came up with an answer. All we really did on the creative side was to visualize something that wasn’t there yet and then make it happen.

A garden is an ongoing story. Certain unplanned events will happen. Incorporating them artfully in your garden is what truly makes it yours and yours alone.