Friday, 24 December 2010

Dwarf Flowering Quince (24 DEC 2010)

This photo was taken in the middle of December after the first snow had melted. I first found this shrub entwined with a prolific bramble bush growing its thorny stems in coils and rescued it from strangulation. It was the small, salmon pink-coloured buds that caught my eye when I was spring-weeding. If I remember correctly, it flowered before the spring bulbs this year. The sight of its flowers made me broody and prompted my trip to Wilkinsons to buy packets of seeds. Then in the summer I spotted two yellow, round growths without stems, fused directly onto the inner branches. I'd never seen anything like it, decided they were parasitic, maybe poisonous, and threw them away without cutting them open to look for seeds.

Like the winter jasmine & skimmia, this was another low-growing shrub which was inconspicuous during the summer months. Now it continues to flower despite the heavy second snowfall.  I classified it by accident when I was researching fruit trees …..The only fruiting plants I have in this garden are brambles, raspberry bushes and an immature fig. I fancied the idea of growing a quince tree because it was favoured in ancient times and there's a risk it could die out because it's not so popular now. According to wikipedia, it's believed that the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was actually a quince not an apple. The Ancient Romans cooked with quinces and used them to perfume the air. Ancient Greeks offered them in wedding rituals because they were linked to Aphrodite and brides used them to freshen their breath. In modern Europe, the hard, astringent fruit need to be bletted by frost or cooked to enhance apple pies with their aroma or make preserves. Anyway, I was googling quince and saw photos of familiar salmon pink flowers on bare branches which turned out to belong to a close relative dwarf flowering quince (chaenomeles from the rosaceae family). I am now kicking myself that I didn't even sniff the yellow growths before throwing them away. I'm left here imagining the aroma and wondering how the scent & flavour of apple pie could possibly be enhanced.

According to the Plants for a Future website, true quince is "analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent and digestive and a decoction is used internally in the treatment of nausea, joint pains, cholera and associated cramps". However, it doesn't clarify if dwarf quince has the same medicinal properties - botanists originally classified dwarf quince as a pear, then as a quince, then finally as a pear again with its own genus : chaenomeles. According to my Reader's Digest Encyclopaedia, there are two main species Japonica (from Japan) and Speciosa (from China). Both, like true quince, are self-pollinating, the fruit is more astringent and contains more pectin (good for preserves) than true quince. Not sure which one mine is. Japonica - because it's less than 1m tall (but that might be my pruning) or Speciosa - because it grew dark green, glossy leaves in the summer after flowering. None of the literature mentions flowering in December or in the snow.

Chaenomeles can be grown from seeds or by dividing off suckers in the winter. It's popular for bonsai because it has small flowers in proportion to the stunted branches, which is going to be one of my xmas holiday projects. I'll pull off a sucker and plant it as an instant bonsai tree for a gardener in the next generation to enjoy the characteristic crookedness it will hopefully develop if the roots and branches are pruned correctly. I've never thought of my experiments with plants as being a legacy before, in fact, they could be my only useful contribution to the progress of Planet Earth.

4 comments:

Rebecca said...

Very interesting post! I love early spring bloomers..especially now and this might be something I'll add. I like the added trivia about the plant possibly being the forbidden fruit..

b-a-g said...

Thanks Rebecca. The photos here don't really do it justice, there's a better photo in the 11FEB2011 post.

Anonymous said...

Worthy of note post. You have an exciting review on this subject and I will be subscribing to your feed as completely as expect you will post again shortly on like subjects. But I am inquisitive on what your item sources for the post are? Thank you

Before I go, let me thank you for your tolerance with my English as (I am certain you have figured this by now,), English is not my head language hence I am using Google Translate to build out how to jot down what I really intend to tell.

b-a-g said...

Hi anon#1,
I'll add a Google Translator to the sidebar for you.
Here are links to the sources :

FOR REGULAR QUINCE - http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Cydonia+oblonga
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quince

FOR DWARF FLOWERING QUINCE -
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Chaenomeles+japonica
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaenomeles_japonica

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