Friday, April 29, 2011

In Praise of Quince

My husband has made me a convert to quince. Thanks to him we have 7 quince plants in our garden. His gardening passion is quince; mine is the common lilac aka syringe vulgaris. We planted as many lilacs as quince, but we have only 2 syringa vulgaris left. The quince are all still standing.

The lilacs must have full sun and alkaline soil to flourish; no matter how much lime I add, when I dig down a few inches, the soil remains stubbornly acidic. Only one of my two remaining lilacs has flower buds and maybe I will just have to face reality and take it out.

I’ll put up with a lot for that lilac fragrance. When it’s not in bloom, it’s a scraggly plant susceptible to hideous powdery mildew. The quince may not have fragrance to die for but it flowers everywhere even in fairly deep shade. It’s not fussy about soil ph and the foliage remains glossy and disease free throughout the season. Unlike the common lilac, quince can be pruned into an attractive shape.The lilacs always looks weedy, no matter what I do.

Most quince plants are upright and quince contorta has fantastic curling branches which are magnificent in flower arrangements:

But if you want something low, there's incredibly tough texas scarlet:

My favorite is Toyo Nishiki which has white, pale pink, and bright red flowers on the same plant.
Quince generally blooms for a full 3 weeks, about a week longer than the average flowering shrub. This may be because it starts to flower in late March/early April so its delicate blossoms are less likely to be fried by unseasonably warm weather. It’s on its way out now, but put on a great show.

Quince may not have a fragrance to die for (which is why I put up with the common lilac), but it does produce an attractive lime green fruit in early Fall. The quince fruits can be boiled and turned into a tart (or not so tart depending on the amount of sugar added) quince jelly. We have yet to harvest our quince fruits and turn it them into quince jelly, but maybe we will get it together this year!


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