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Quirky Quince: Old Vs. New Varieties

There are some plants that seem to attain perfection in one season, but do not pay their freight the rest of the year. An example is the old-fashioned flowering quince, Chaenomeles japonica, which has spectacular white or orange-red flowers in the early spring that look so welcome to winter-weary eyes. The blooms appear just before the leaves and the branches can be forced indoors in late winter.

It is a thorny thicket-forming bush that can grow tall if not pruned religiously, and it is susceptible to a fungus that causes leaf drop in late summer so is best if it is placed it in an out-of-the-way spot.

More recent varieties of flowering quince, however, are attractive year-round so can be placed in prominent places and also used en masse. They are not only more compact and look good all year, but they have the added bonus of being thorn-free.

The Doubletake series, for example, includes both ‘Orange Storm' and ‘Pink Storm' that grow only 3 to 4 feet high. They are hardy zones 5 - 9 and have lovely bowl-shaped flowers in early spring. If given average, well-drained soil in full sun, they are relatively care free and drought tolerant once they are established.

Chaenomeles x superba ‘cameo' is a later blooming hybrid that produces large semi-double peachy-pink flowers that contrasts well with the light green leaves since the flowers persist with the foliage, and there is also fragrant fruit produced in the fall.

I read in the White Flower Farm catalog that a bowl of the fruit will perfume a room. This plant grows 5 feet tall if not pruned hard after flowering, and it is hardy to Zone 5. These new and improved quinces are not as quirky as their predecessors and perform well in all seasons as hedges or specimens.

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