Crab apples offer two bursts of colour, spring flowers and autumn fruits, and in small gardens this is especially valuable. And there are few varieties that are as prolific and colourful as Jelly King (‘Mattfru’), raised in New Zealand and at last now reaching Britain.
It features clean white flowers (below, click to enlarge), which are not only fragrant but produced in generous numbers, followed by prolific, long lasting, orange fruits with pink, cream and red overtones which make excellent jelly (above, click to enlarge).
Developed by Tom Mathews at Matthews Nurseries in Wanganui on New Zealand’s North Island, his son Bob told me all about it.
“The flowers are spectacular in the spring,” he said, “which is always the first criteria in the selection process. Always good on the tolerance of any disease here in New Zealand, this was the second criteria, and when the fruit starts to colour the magic takes over. The creamy orange yellow, which is overlaid with the classic apple red, is the most spectacular sight on a fully established tree.
“It can be a very vigorous grower, reaching 3m/10ft easily, and is a very prolific producer of fruit, excellent for crab apple jelly, though it pays to harvest the fruit early. Because it is so prolific, only some fruit needs to be harvested leaving the rest on the tree for the beautiful affect.
“The birds leave the fruit alone, maybe they don’t like the taste, but it’s great to be able to have this colour in the garden all through the winter.
“Jelly King (‘Mattfru’) is from a planned breeding programme undertaken by my father Tom Matthews, mostly in the 1970s; we have introduced some and we still have several varieties we are evaluating many years after he passed away. Jelly King (‘Mattfru’) was in its final selection in the late 80s and was marketed here in New Zealand in the mid 90s, alongside the many other selections that can be attributed to Tom.”
This looks to be an excellent addition to the ornamental crab apples we have available, combining good flower and fruit colour, prolific flower and fruit production, excellent jelly quality and relatively modest size. We look forward to seeing more of the varieties raised by Tom Mathews becoming available.
Malus Jelly King (‘Mattfru’) is available from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries and also Whispering Trees Nurseries and Frank P. Mathews.
Images ©Matthews Nurseries.