Chaenomeles – Flowering Quinces

These are the flowering quinces, and are hardy deciduous wall shrubs. They are related to the common quince and their fruits can be eaten. C. speciosa, the Japanese quince, is the most commonly planted, and is the one which often starts flowering before Christmas, although its main flowering comes in March and April.

It is a spreading, rather untidy shrub, up to about 3m (10 ft) tall. The flowers of the species are red, but it has been cultivated for centuries, and there are at least a dozen varieties still available, with different coloured flowers: ‘Cardinalis’ (dark red), ‘Moerloesii’ (pink and white), ‘Nivalis’ (white), ‘Phyllis Moore’ (double pink), ‘Umbilicata’ (pink). C. japonica is not, as you might think, Japanese quince; it is Maule’s quince, and to add to the confusion the true Japanese quince is sometimes sold under the Latin name Cydonia japonica.

Chaenomeles - Flowering Quinces

Maule’s quince is low and spreading compared with the true Japanese quince – it seldom grows higher than 90 cm (3 ft) – and has crimson and orange flowers. C. x superba is a cross between these species, and has a number of named varieties, most of them red.

Some catalogues still list these shrubs under their old name cydonia, and gardeners often refer to them simply as Japanese quinces or japonicas. They are deciduous shrubs with apple-like blossom, scarlet, crimson, pink or white, according to variety, produced in late winter or early spring, usually followed by large, hard, fragrant fruits which can be used to flavour apple pies and make quince preserves. Grown naturally the various varieties of chaenomeles make densely branched, spiny bushes, but they are often trained against walls, when they should be pruned after flowering to get rid of any stems that cannot conveniently be tied in and to shorten forward-pointing side growths to a few inches so that everything is tidy. Bushes in the open need not be pruned unless they need to be reduced in size or density.

All kinds are very hardy and easy to grow in almost any soil, in sun or semi-shade. Good varieties are cardinalis, scarlet; moerloosd (Apple Blossom), pink; nivalis, white, and simonii, crimson.

General care: Chaenomeles are happy in any garden soil, prefer sun but will tolerate shade, and like a wall or fence against which to grow. Prune after flowering, tidying up the shoots as far as possible and reducing the previous year’s growth to a couple of buds.

Propagation: Most successful from heeled cuttings, taken in the summer and struck in a 50-50 peat and sand mixture.

Pests and diseases: Birds will sometimes eat the flowers and often eat the ripening fruit, and netting is the only answer. Although not ‘officially’ lime-hating, chaenomeles can turn chlorotic. If this happens, treat with chelated iron.

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