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

White and Red Quince on Black

From “Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)” in Tea: And Other Assorted Poems by Ruth Moose:

The quince rose thorny and sharp
beside our front porch steps, snagged
all who entered… my father’s temper
most. But mother’s patience
pruned. She tamed it, told it
wait. She knew its blooms,
orange neon against winter gray
saved our lives.

Each February
mother broke a branch to bring
indoors. Lifeless
sticks warmed in water
bloomed in that cheerless room.
Poverty lived in cold corners,
owned no rugs. The warmest
clothes were never quite warm
enough and bed quilts had to be high
and heavy to hold body heat.

But we lived
rich in hope.
In that barely
warm room,
each winter, Mother
created spring.


Before saying goodbye to the quinces (at least for now), I thought it would be fun to subject a few of the photos to my black background treatment, so picked eleven of each color and did just that. Despite all the little details I had to trace around — including their tiny thorny thorns — many of them came out quite good!

All the previous quince posts for 2024 are Red Quince (1 of 2), Red Quince (2 of 2), White Quince (1 of 2), and White Quince (2 of 2).

Thanks for taking a look!

Red Quince (2 of 2)

From “The Renaissance” in A Short History of Gardens  by Gordon Campbell:

Italian Renaissance gardens influenced the development of garden design throughout Europe, both in layout and in content. This influence also extended to the proliferation of new species of plants, because the first botanical gardens were in Italy. The purpose of these gardens was to facilitate the study of plants for medicinal purposes. The origins of these gardens are disputed, but they may combine elements of the physic gardens of earlier centuries and the Aztec gardens that the conquistadors had discovered in Mexico….

“The Orto Botanico in Pisa (c. 1543) was planted by Luca Ghini, who taught botany and medicine at the University of Pisa. The garden was planted with medicinal plants gathered by Ghini and his students on field trips in northern Italy. The garden soon developed an international reputation both for the range of its collections and its beauty….

“It was the first garden in Europe to cultivate the horse chestnut (
Aesculus hippocastanum), the black walnut (Juglans nigra), the ailanthus (Ailantus glandulosa), the camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), the Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica), the magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), and the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). The garden is still owned by the university, but now specializes in lilies, water-lilies, and amaryllis.”


This is the second of two posts featuring red quince from Oakland Cemeteries gardens. The first post is Red Quince (1 of 2), and my white quince posts are White Quince (1 of 2) and White Quince (2 of 2).

Thanks for taking a look!

Red Quince (1 of 2)

From “Winter Flowering Quince” by Clara Sargent Mainwaring in A Time For Poetry: An Anthology by the North Carolina Poetry Society:

How sudden-brightly primrose pink!
sun-touched outside my windowpane
sturdy on your thorny stems
glistening after winter rain,
resting robins fresh from snow,
promising that leaves will grow

From “Chaenomeles (February 4, 1962)” in Through the Garden Gate by Elizabeth Lawrence:

“I have been making a list of flowering shrubs (those that drop their leaves), one for each month of the year. The list begins with the Chinese witch hazel, and ends with wintersweet. For February I have in mind the flowering quince; though the height of its bloom is often a month later, there are other shrubs for March, and I can think of none so colorful in February.

“The cultivated quinces are forms of two species,
Chaenomeles japonica, and C. lagenaria [a synonym for Chaenomeles speciosa]; and of C. x superba, a hybrid between these two. As C. japonica is dwarf, and C. lagenaria is tall there is a great variety in habit. The flowers are white, spectrum red, and tones between red and orange. They bloom between Thanksgiving and Easter….

“C. japonica is a prostrate shrub that spreads very slowly to three or four feet. I used to have it in Raleigh in the shady rock garden, where the small coral flowers appeared freely in March, with a few at almost any time of the year….

“There are any number of good red-flowering quinces in all sizes and shapes…. Many of the red ones are English hybrids.”


On the same day I photographed freshly blooming white quince (see White Quince (1 of 2) and White Quince (2 of 2)), I also encountered several newly flowering red quince plants, who posed for the images you see below. As with white quince, these are a mix of Chaenomeles japonica and Chaenomeles speciosa — with some stretching along stone structures and walls, and others growing as compact shrubs. I waited for clouds to move in before taking these photos — something that works well with red flowers, as red in bright sunlight can be over-saturated, leading to a loss of detail.

My previous post White Quince (2 of 2) includes an excerpt from the book Japanese Gardens by Wendy B. Murphy — where the author mentions that the quince flowers appear before the plant’s leaves. That subtle characteristic is also reflected in the poem at the top of this post, where the poet observes that the flowering quince is “promising that leaves will grow.” How cool is that!

Thanks for taking a look!

White Quince (2 of 2)

From “Chaenomeles” in Japanese Gardens by Wendy B. Murphy:

“In Japan the quince is admired for its fragrant, extremely early flowers, which may open in mid-January if weather conditions are favorable. A low-growing, wide-spreading deciduous shrub, it tolerates pruning so well that it is a classic subject for bonsai. In the garden, it is often pruned to a single stem and grown as a small tree. Alternatively, it is grown in rows as a hedge, its dense foliage and thorny branches intertwining to form an effective barrier.

“The Japanese quince grows only 3 to 4 feet tall, but it spreads 5 to 7 feet; the flowering quince grows 5 to 6 feet tall with an equal spread. Both species have shiny oval leaves, 1½ to 3 inches long, and thorns so long they sometimes appear to be small branches. The flowers, which appear before the leaves, are 1 to 2 inches wide and bloom in clusters of two to four blossoms. On the Japanese quince, they are red-orange; on the flowering quince, they may be white, pink or red, depending on the variety. Both species produce hard round green aromatic fruit in the fall, about 2 inches in diameter.”

From “The Tradescants Make Plant Hunting a Career” in The Plant Hunters by Carolyn Fry:

“By the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, planting gardens was in the West becoming an indulgent hobby for wealthy gentlemen. As developing trade links brought news of the diversity of botanical riches that existed in foreign parts, the owners of large estates vied to create the most unusual and exotic collections of plants. One such gentleman was Robert Cecil, the First Earl of Salisbury, who began developing the garden at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, England, in 1610. He employed John Tradescant as gardener, sending him to The Netherlands, Belgium, and France to obtain tulip bulbs, rose bushes, and cherry, pear, quince, mulberry, and orange trees. In doing so, he helped elevate the status of plant hunting from an enjoyable pastime to a lucrative profession.”


This is the second of two posts featuring white flowering quince from Oakland Cemeteries gardens, one of my favorite plants to photograph this time of year since it blooms so profusely as early as January and for several months thereafter. The first post is White Quince (1 of 2).

Thanks for taking a look!

White Quince (1 of 2)

From “Flowering Quince” by Winfield Townley Scott in American Poetry: The Twentieth Century by The Library of America:

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…

From “Chaenomeles” in Garden Shrubs and Their Histories by Alice M. Coats:

“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!