Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com/) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

"When winter comes to its end, look to the common flowering quince to begin the spring season. Quince is one of the earliest flowering shrubs of the spring season. Not as showy as the well known forsythia shrub but it brings us a welcome sign that spring is here. If you can plant the quince in a south facing exposure--away from wind and protected--you will be in for a real treat. The flowers begin to open near the ground first and move up the stems as the temperatures increase outside. You can even cut branches from the plant NOW and force them into bloom indoors in a tall vase filled with water.

The quince grows in an unruly shaped mound that is just as tall as it is wide. It will grow to 6 feet tall but can be easily pruned on a yearly schedule and kept to 4 feet tall or less. Pruning is required to encourage new growth, because the new growth this year will make flowers for next year. After the flowers fade, remove some of the old wood to make room for the new growth--do not be scared to prune! Say to yourself "I am doing this for your own good," and the plant will thank you with more flowers the next season. Remember, the plant will have many stems almost like a tangled mass of crisscrossing branches.

The foliage is dark green and shiny. The leaves are 1.5 to 3 inches long and oval shaped. Under all the foliage is a surprise for you--thorns! The bark is dark brown. If you want to build a pretty hedge to divide your property from the neighbors and keep them out, this is your plant.

The flowers resemble small roses with multi petals. The flowers are numerous on the tips of the branches and run down the stems of the plant. Each flower will open to 1 to 2 inches in diameter and have a yellow center. The flower color range is from pure white, soft pink, salmon to scarlet red. As the flowers mature, the color will fade, giving the plant a multi-colored look. Some of the flowers will be single and some double, on the same plant. The flowering cycle is 4 to 6 weeks, longer than most because of the outside temperatures being cooler at this time of the year. The warmer the outside temperatures, the shorter time a plant will bloom.

With a little bit of luck Mother Nature will give you a present. This plant will make some fruit that will grow 2 to 3 inches round, pale yellow to a blush color, resembling a pear and as hard as a rock. The fruit will make a great tasting jam or jelly--which can often be found in Cape Cod gift shops.

You can plant in a part shade area as well as a full sun location. The best plant will grow in a rich soil with a lot of organic matter, such as animal manure or compost. Well-drained soil with no standing water is best--and sandy rather than clay-type soils. Fertilize in the spring after pruning to encourage more flowers. Build a mulch bed around the plant and it will make it easier to mow the grass around the plant. The only problem you will have is in the fall when leaves from trees fall on the quince and you want to remove them. Just remember THORNS!! "

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