Tough shrub bears tender flowers

Although the flower buds of our flowering quince have been slowly swelling for some time, at the first hint of winter thaw a week or so back, when the daytime temperatures became relatively mild, a few of them opened into lovely pink flowers, giving an anticipation that spring is not very far; now, more flower buds are trying to unfold along with abundant green shoots. One of the first deciduous shrubs to break dormancy and bloom, a flowering quince is indeed a delight to have in the garden.

In fact, it is the combination of the delicate flowers and the toughness of the shrub that has always drawn me to the commonly grown Japanese species, Chaenomeles japonica. What has discouraged me all this time from growing it has been the sharp thorns on the stems, a feature that might be of value in deterring animals such as deer but not necessarily favored by all of us. Therefore, some years back, when I came across the hybrid Chaenomeles x superba ‘Cameo’ which has no thorns, I couldn’t have been happier. And, every year when I get tired of winter and wish it would go away, ‘Cameo’ comes to bloom to uplift those winter doldrums.

Flowering quinces are one of the easiest shrubs to grow. They are not fussy but require four to six hours of sunlight for ample bloom production, though, ours is doing fairly well at a location that doesn’t get enough direct sunlight and the soil is not of a very good quality. Nevertheless, over the years, the shrub has grown satisfactorily and looks beautiful when in bloom. An added asset of a flowering quince is the placement of the flowers is such that just a few blooming branches can be kept inside in a vase for a very artistic effect. For that matter, even during cold months, once flower buds are seen, branches can be brought indoors and forced to bloom early.

While a rather carefree plant,    flowering quinces do begin to look somewhat unruly over the course of time; in that case, they can be pruned to desired size and shape once flowering is over. We try to prune ours fairly regularly to keep them in the allocated area. At the same time, make sure to water and apply fertilizer to maintain the vigor of the plant. Needless to say, the blooming ‘Cameo’ not only is pretty to look at but brings along with it a big sigh of relief that winter will soon be over. 


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