"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Winter Shapes: White Quince

From “Not Everyone Wants to Go Whole Hog into Gardening” in On Gardening by Henry Mitchell:

“[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!

Winter Shapes: Jasmine Blooms and Rose Leaves

From “Lalla Rookh” by Thomas Moore in The RHS Book of Flower Poetry and Prose by the Royal Horticultural Society:

Plants that wake when others sleep —
Timid jasmine buds that keep
Their fragrance to themselves all day,
But when the sunlight dies away
Let the delicious secret out
To every breeze that roams about.

From “My Neighbor’s Roses” by Abraham L. Gruber in The RHS Book of Garden Verse by the Royal Horticultural Society:

The roses red upon my neighbor’s vine
Are owned by him, but they are also mine.
His was the cost, and his the labor, too,
But mine as well as his the joy, their loveliness to view.

They bloom for me and are for me as fair
As for the man who gives them all his care.
Thus I am rich, because a good man grew
A rose-clad vine for all his neighbors’ view.

I know from this that others plant for me,
And what they own, my joy may also be.
So why be selfish, when so much that’s fine
Is grown for you, upon your neighbor’s vine.


It’s always fun to uncover splashes of color among the winterized branches and bushes. Below are a few photos of tiny jasmine blooms, the first I’ve seen so far as we try to wrap up winter. The blooms — even the fully opened ones — are barely half an inch long, but still glow with some very bright yellows.

Below the jasmine photos are some early rosebush and rose vine leaves. They have quite a few large and thorny thorns, mostly, I believe, to protect them from photographers who like to stick their faces and lenses into the bushes — but also to ward off plant-eating predators.

Thanks for taking a look!

Winter Shapes: Salvia, Sagebrush, and Spirea

From Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

SALVIA (Lamiaceae): With a name derived from the Latin, salvare (“to heal”), it is clear that some of the sages have a significant medical history. All have a powerful aroma, very clearly that of Lamiaceae to any reasonably experienced gardener or botanist, but also very different from each other. Indeed, it would be fair to say that there is probably as much difference in aromatics from sage to sage as among the scents of any other genus. The range of colour is also unrivalled….”

From The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (Vol. 1) by Liberty Hyde Bailey:

ARTEMISIA: A large genus of aromatic and bitter herbs and small shrubs, mostly in the northern hemisphere, and most abundant in arid regions. Leaves alternate, often dissected: heads small and mostly inconspicuous, numerous and generally nodding, with yellow or whitish florets… In the West, many of the species, particularly A. tridentata, are known as sage brush.”

From Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

SPIRAEA (Rosaceae): Once upon time this was a large genus, but the splitters have had their way, so Spiraea is down to around 80 woody plants found across cool temperate North America and Eurasia…. Spireas are deciduous shrubs of woodland edge and open damp habitats. All are long-lived clonal competitive shrubs, and some are able to sucker strongly to form thickets…. [The] plants contain salicylates and so have analgesic qualities. The genus is named after the Greek word for a plant used in making garlands.”


Spring must be on its way: bits of color are starting to appear!

The salvia (in the first six photos) has begun making new leaves, shedding purplish winter ones for freshened up green. Spirea (in the last six photos) has popped out some of its tiny white blooms, while showing off their bright yellow collars. Sagebrush (in the middle) doesn’t really have much color, but I liked the fluffy silver look mixed with some shadowy blues — the closest we ever got to ice-on-plants this year.

Thanks for taking a look!

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