A simple description of an apple tree would easily be a tall, sturdy tree that provides shade as well as a bounty of delicious fruit. Apples are delicious fresh, in pies and other baked goods and as ingredients in a variety of preserves or recipes. The apple's many parts are helpful in a wide variety of cooking chores as well. However, the overall description of an apple tree is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this fascinating plant.
Apple trees come in two sizes: standard and dwarf. Most varieties are available in standard size reaching 12 to 25 feet in height. Not all apple varieties are available in dwarf sizes, but the ones that are make great single person, small property or even apartment terrace trees. The dwarfing ability is a scientific mutation created by grafting a dwarf rootstock to a standard seedling.
There are nine major varieties of apples. These are Gala, Red Delicious, Braeburn, and Fuji for fresh eating and Empire, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Stayman and Rome for fresh eating and cooking.
Apple trees do best in colder climates that have a definite seasonal change. While they require warm weather to flower and fruit, apple trees need a long, cold dormant period to prepare for the growth cycle. Apple trees live and produce for many years and require very modest care in the form of pruning and fertilization. Protection from insects is the most difficult task for home growers. Trees need some form of insecticide, either natural or chemical, early in the growing season.
Apple trees require pollination from one to the other in order to make fruit. Area bees usually do this task. For the best results, it is important to have more than one variety of apple tree planted. The reason for this is that years of scientific mutations and genetic tampering have resulted in trees that are not compatible with themselves. They require a different variety nearby to reproduce. Pick trees that will bloom at approximately the same time in order to achieve maximum productivity with both species.
Apple trees have a reputation for their fruits, but there are also other very useful parts of the apple and apple tree. Apple blossoms make a delicate perfume, and the oils from them help create a wide variety of cosmetics. The bark of the apple tree is a centuries-old medicinal herb, and the ashes from apple trees are a good fertilizer. The seeds of an apple contain pectin, which is wonderful natural thickening agent. Pectin makes jellies, jams, cheese and other foods needing to congeal.