Rushing around on a busy day, I don't always remember to stop to "smell the flowers". But this week, the sight of a bright red flowering shrub standing out among all the whites and yellows of spring got me to park my car.
I was ready to rush off to my next to-do when THIS gorgeous common floweringquince (Chaenomeles speciosa) sprung into view. I re-parked and headed into Chadwick Arboretum on the OSU Campus in Columbus to check it out. Let's just take a moment to eat up this rich color! Ahhh...
Floweringquince is considered an old-time favorite. It was introduced before the 1800's according to Michael Dirr in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants and still can be found adorning mature landscapes. It is a shrub whose tangled and spined branches form a pleasing round shape overall but can be messy, trapping debris, trash, and leaves within. So much so that Michael Dirr actually describes this dense arrangement of branches "a garbage can" in his manual. This tight growing structure also makes floweringquince a common hedgerow occupant.
The leaves emerge a slight bronzy red turning to a darker glossy green for the season.
There are many cultivars available with flowers ranging in color from orange to brilliant shades of orange-red to red, and some pink to white. The flowers bloom on old wood singly or in clusters so pruning should be done right after flowering so as not to inadvertently prune off flower buds before they've had their chance to shine. This display lasts only 1 to 2 weeks in spring, provided frost hasn't taken the buds, and then it remains a dense green shrub the rest of the season. It is hardy zone 4-8 and considered had to kill, for better or worse, depending on your liking for it.
Floweringquince is impressive when caught flowering but is a purely spring creature, blending into the greens the rest of the year with no notable fall or winter interest, yet it is still valued for its color and to some extent its fruit. Quince fruit, while hard and bitter raw, can be boiled with sugar to make jellies and sauces.