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The Sargent crabapple is a very fine tree. It has fragrant flowers (pink in bud, open white), tiny bright red fruit that hangs on through winter to delight the eye and fruit-eating birds, great disease resistance and a beautiful low, wide-spreading form. Yet even a compact tree like this can overstep its bounds, and in its fullness be transformed from well branched sculpture to ordinary chubbiness.
We took this tree in hand on one late summer evening.
This crabapple is the focal point at the front door garden. If it reaches its type's normal size of about 8 feet tall and half again as wide, it will overhang the walk and obstruct the driveway. So it must be kept this size.
Marilyn, the gardener-owner, has been doing that but saw the shape was becoming "a blob" and asked us in to show her how-to. Janet and Deb Hall do the teaching while Marilyn and others learn by doing. (You can come learn at a Garden By Janet & Steven session, too!)
First we determine which of its too-many main limbs should stay. Look up into a tree from underneath, as we looked up into this one -- see the photos at the top of this page and also below. Identify branches that are distributed around the trunk and from low to high, so each can grow foliage into its own bit of sky without competing and stretching to get out of the shade of other limbs.
Can we see through the tree? Yes.
If you were growing this tree as a hedge (a great choice) you might not want to prune it this way.
Do we lose flower? Yes, in that every branch we took out that was over two years old is not going to be there to flower in spring! However, the branches we left in place will bear flowers and fruit.
We see suckers (blue arrow in the photo above). That's common on crabapples, which are grafted to roots of different types of apple. Those roots often are more vigorous than the desirable tree, and develop suckers. Let's cut them out.