Botanical name: Chaenomeles speciosa
Family: Rosaceae (Rose)
Display period: April, May
Height: 6 to 10 feet
Environment: Full or partial sun
AOne of my favorite plants is the flowering quince. I fell in love with it 40 years ago when I first became interested in gardening and my feelings for it have never changed. Its spring blossoms in white or shades of pink, salmon and red, are as exquisite as fine porcelain.
When the blossoms have died and the shrub reverts to all green, its appearance is not so extraordinary. The branches, though -- dramatically angular and thorny -- make the plant suitable for use as a hedge or a barrier against trespassers. And they also create stunning flower arrangements, especially in the Asian style.
The Japanese floral masters call flowering quince the quintessential material for all types of ikebana because of the ease with which the branches may be bent or shaped and because of the longevity of the flowers -- they often last for two or three days even when out of water. It is not unusual for branches forced to bloom prematurely indoors to hold their blossoms for 10 days or more.
In its flexibility, flowering quince adapts well to espaliering against a wall. It also fits compatibly in a shrub border or it can be set apart by itself.
The genus name, Chaenomeles, derives from the Greek words chaino, to split, and meles for apple, a reference to the shape of the fruit. The seeming incongruity between the plant and its name is explained by the fact that it was mistakenly believed that the fruit was split. The species name, speciosa, means showy.
While flowering quince bears fruit, the plant should not be confused with the quince tree, Cydonia oblonga -- a tree whose fruits are commonly used for making jelly and which, although a member of the same family, belongs to a different genus. Aside from being hardy and growing easily in ordinary soil, flowering quince offers many new and choice varieties.