If right in front of me,
Slow motion — fast motion really —
The cold branch of the quince
Should all at once
Start with a rash of buds
Then the thin green nudge
The brown back, then the color
Of the waxen flower, the flame,
Open everywhere the same…
“This is the plant that the public still firmly calls ‘Japonica’ as though no other flower ever came to us from Japan. No changes in nomenclature have been more justifiably resented by gardeners than those affecting this well-loved shrub; and yet the reasons for the changes are logical enough….
“The first species was found by [Carl Peter] Thunberg on the Hakone mountains in Japan, and was described by him in 1784 under the name of Pyrus japonica. In 1796 Sir Joseph Banks introduced a plant to Kew from China, which was thought (wrongly, as it afterwards proved) to be this Pyrus japonica, and it was illustrated under this name in the Botanical Magazine for 1803. In 1818 Robert Sweet noticed that it was not the same as Thunberg’s plant, and renamed it Pyrus speciosa, but by that time the name of ‘japonica’ had become firmly established and nobody seems to have taken much notice of the correction….
“In 1869 the firm of W. Maule and Son of Bristol introduced Thunberg’s original species from Japan; but as Sir Joseph Banks’s Chinese plant was still usurping its name (in spite of Sweet’s attempt at a rectification) another one had to be found, and it was christened Pyrus maulei by Dr. [William] Masters in 1874….
“It has now been restored to its rights as the original ‘japonica’ and Sweet’s name of ‘speciosa’ has been officially adopted for the Chinese plant. The other changes are explained by the fact that for a time botanists classed these shrubs as Quinces (Cydonia) rather than as Pears (Pyrus); then they were replaced among the pears, but that family, being inconveniently large, was split up into a number of more manageable sections, and Chaenomeles was chosen as the name for this particular group….
“So the old ‘Pyrus japonica’ is now Chaenomeles speciosa and the old ‘P. maulei’ is now C. japonica. How much simpler to keep to the Japanese name of Boke!”
If you read the excerpt from Garden Shrubs and Their Histories above, you have some idea how confusing it was for me to try and figure out the names of the plants I photographed for this post (and the next one). I knew they were quinces, but wanted to try and be more precise than that; and, eventually, came to the conclusion that they are a mix of Chaenomeles japonica and Chaenomeles speciosa based on their growth habits: the first twelve photos below were taken in the same location, where these Chaenomeles japonica tumble along the top and down the sides of a stone wall stretching twenty or thirty feet; whereas the rest were in other locations where the plant presents as a compact shrub with larger, more dense collections of flowers. This may or may not be precise; but if it isn’t: they’re still quinces! And they look good in pics!
Thanks for taking a look!