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Plant of the Month: December 2003

'Gibbs' Golden Gage' Crabapple
Malus 'Gibbs' Golden Gage'

= Malus 'Golden Gage'

(ROSACEÆ); Rose Family

    Crabapple trees prized for their persistent attractive fruit were already featured in my November 2002 Plant of the Month article. This time I care to celebrate just one relatively worthy yet too little known cultivar.
    It originated as a chance seedling in the garden of the Hon. Vicary Gibbs (1853 - 1932), at Aldenham, Hertfordshire, England. Gibbs was a well known gardener, and other crabapples raised at his garden are 'Aldenhamensis', 'Cashmere' and 'Lady Northcliffe'. 'Gibbs' Golden Gage' was introduced to North America by 1925 (in Maryland), but has remained rare.
    About 1941 a row of street-trees were planted on the 1200 block of Chapman Street, east of Linden, in Victoria, B.C. The photograph below was taken of one such tree on October 17, 1991. On November 21, 2003, I verified that the trees still stood and still bore abundant crops of lovely yellow crabapples, up to an inch and an eighth long.
    At least partly because the trees make such heavy crops, they stay small, less than 20 feet tall. On the same street are some 'Lemoinei' crabapple trees also planted about 1941 that are far larger --the largest is 27 feet tall, 45 feet wide, and its trunk more than a foot and a half thick.
    The fruit stays attractive for many months, at least into January if not February or March. Other ornamental crabapple cultivars that bear yellow/gold fruit more-or-less similar in size, do not hold it as long. Examples include 'Cheal's Golden Gem,' 'Golden Hornet,' and 'Yellow Siberian.' These three cultivars also grow larger, capable of surpassing 30 feet in height.
    'Gibbs' Golden Gage' possess good if not excllent disease resistance. Pink buds open to white flowers in spring. The leaves are wholly unlobed, are finely sharply toothed, and are covered with minute hairs. The fruit is at once the reason to grow the tree --or to avoid it. Horticulture professor emeritus Edward Hasselkus of Wisconsin thinks the fruit is objectionably large. Father John L. Fiala praised the tree in his posthumous 1994 book Flowering Crabapples, writing (page 184): "A truly choice clone that has been overlooked. There is a great need for good yellow-fruiting crabapples."
    If you care to buy one, a mail-order source is Arborvillage Nursery, PO Box 227, Holt, MO 64048; A one-gallon specimen is $15.00; many other superb crabapples can be purchased from this nursery.
    I expect there has been some confusion in labeling over the decades. The trees I cite in Victoria, for instance, had been planted under the name Malus x heterophylla 'Mathews'. But correctly, all trees under the 1834 heterophylla or 1913 platycarpa epithets refer to hybrids between ordinary domestic orchard apples and the eastern North American species Malus coronaria. And 'Gibbs' Golden Gage' shows zero evidence of any North American crabapple genes in its makeup. I also expect that 'Cheal's Golden Gem' gets confused with 'Gibbs' Golden Gage.' So, if you are looking at labeled specimens in collections, be aware.

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Chapman Street 'Gibbs' Golden Gage' crabapple in October




Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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