An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

February 9, 2008

Signs of Spring

With all of the above average temperatures of the past week; things are beginning to pop open. While I hate February more than any other month, I am not ready for spring quite yet. Temperatures can fluctuate greatly here, and when they do it plays havoc on the blooms. Winter here is never a deep sleep, it is more of a toss and turn kind of night.

One of the first shrubs to bloom are the Quinces. This is one of the plants I remember from childhood at our house in Richmond. My mom planted one by the back steps that had no railing, and my brother and I liked the plant, not for its flowers, but for the fact we could push each other off the steps into the Quince's thorns. She called it Japonica, and I still have a few customers coming in using that name. She loved to cut it and bring it in for flower arrangements, and it is easy to force open in late winter.

All of the pictures were taken at work this week, and the one below is close in color to what I remember pushing my brother into. It is is Texas Scarlet (Chaenomeles japonica 'Texas Scarlet'). It gets about 3' by 5'. Another good red is Crimson and Gold ( Chaenomeles x superba 'Crimson and Gold'). It is a much richer color in my eyes and it gets about 3.5' tall by 5-6' wide. We started carrying this at work a couple of years ago when it was offered by one of my favorite weird plant places, Nurseries Caroliniana.
A favorite of my customers is Toyo Nishiki (Chaenomeles speciosa 'Toyo Nishiki'). It is usually advertised as a mix of white, pink and red, but more often it is primarily white and pink. This one will get 6' tall and wide, maybe more.
One that does not grow as big as the others is Jet Trails (Chaenomeles x superba 'Jet Trails'). It only gets to 3' tall and wide with a more spreading habit.

There are other quinces that I could not get a picture of, and one of my favorites is Cameo (Chaenomeles japonica 'Cameo') which is a good apricot. It gets 3' by 5'. All quince prefer to be in full sun for best flowering, they can take light shade but with fewer blooms. They produce a fruit that is reminiscent of an apple that can be used to make jelly, but I have never tried it. It might be one of those things that is only edible after you add enough sugar to make it palatable. If you are latin name person, beware that this plant has some confusion between species and hybrids.


  1. It'll be a while before we see quince blooming here. I just noticed winter jasmine blooming in Charlottesville yesterday. Thanks for that link to Nurseries Caroliniana - it looks like a very interesting place.

  2. Great shots. It'll be months before we see any blooms,, so any now, even just photos, are appreciated!

  3. If I just had a bit more room in my garden, I would plant Chaenomeles.