“[However] common the flowering quinces may be, they are still first-rate shrubs. They come in pink, white, orange, and scarlet, and in time form globular plants six or seven feet high, but are easily pruned to lower heights if you prefer. The large occasional fruits can be made into preserves. I did that once but never ate the stuff; possibly you could send them for Christmas presents.”
From 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells:
“Japonica blossoms burst out of bare branches in earliest spring before there are green leaves anywhere. They are sometimes white, but more usually red or brilliant coral, and they seem more like an implausible statement against the darkness of winter than real flowers….
“The naming of the japonica itself is complicated. The first japonica was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg, a pupil of Linnaeus…. After this, the japonica played for a while a kind of nomenclatural musical chairs….
“Finally japonicas came to rest botanically by being classed as Chaenomeles, from the Greek chainein (to gape) and melon (apple), referring to a perception that the fruit was split. Thunberg’s original plant and its descendants became Chaenomeles japonica, and the plant from China and its descendants became Chaenomeles speciosa. Both are more often called ‘japonicas’ or ‘flowering quince.’ Both produce brilliant blossoms in early spring, followed by a hard pear or quince-like fruit that can be made into jelly.”
The white quinces are flowering! Normally that’s not notable, since it’s common here to see scattered quince blooms throughout the winter then busting out all over toward the end of January or in February. But after our late-December deep-freeze (see Plant Entanglements (1 of 2), where I wrote about the damage to flora and fauna around town), the quinces were pretty stagnant: most of the leaves had been burned off by the cold weather and there were only a few small, crumpled flowers remaining. But after a nice warmup recently and some scattered rain, they’re on their way back.
What may not be so evident from the photos, though, is this: the flowers are coming back faster than the leaves — something unusual that I see happening in my own garden where several large fringe flower bushes have produced flowers but have not yet replaced the leaves destroyed by the cold weather. They look so weird: imagine long, thin branches similar to those in the quince photos below, with no leaves but just a tiny pink tassel hanging off the end. I was going to take some photos of them in that stripped-down condition… but I didn’t want to embarrass them….
Thanks for taking a look!