I have tested berried shrubs and trees for years trying to find the best ones to feed birds. If you read the labels at your local nursery you will find that every plant that has a berry also has a tag that says “attracts birds”. But this is just marketing copy and very few have any value to birds. However one crabapple performs beautifully in the Willamette Valley.
I fell upon it quite by accident. I produced the Portland Home and Garden Show for many years back in the heyday when there was an entire hall dedicated to landscaped gardens. At the end of the show I would always pick up a few plants that were highlighted in one of the gardens. And this particular year I fell in love with the leaf structure and white blossoms of a Golden Raindrops Crabapple (Malus ‘Schmidtcutleaf’).
Spring Blossoms Attract Pollinators
Golden Raindrops Crabapples have finely textured, deeply cut foliage which gives it a delicate appearance. The tree has slender limbs that spread horizontally from upright branches. In the spring it has delicate white flowers that attract early pollinators such as orchard mason bees. In turn, the pollinators are kept well fed until my fruit trees go into bloom.
Fall Fruit Attracts Birds
From what I have observed, most crabapple varieties have fruit that are too large for the birds in the Willamette Valley. In late winter, when the birds are desperate for food they may eat some of the larger fruit, but by then much of the fruit has already fallen to the ground. I have six Golden Raindrops Crabapples in my garden and in less than four days a flock of cedar waxwings or robins will strip them bare. It is a sight to behold.
I highly recommend planting at least one Golden Raindrops Crabapple (Malus ‘Schmidtcutleaf’) if you want to attract birds and pollinators to your garden. You will not be disappointed.