Fruiting-Quince Tree Blossoms

Edward Lear’s famous line in The Owl and the Pussycat is gibberish.

“They dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon.”

Did you know that the word runcible did not exist before Lear published his nonsensical poem in 1871? Even now, over a century later, I defy you to use runcible in a coherent sentence. Given Lear’s propensity for nonsense, I guess we couldn’t expect him to clarify that the Owl and the Pussycat likely dined on cooked quince slices. Raw quince was no more appetizing in the late 19th century as it is today.

Until recently, most people baulked at growing a quince because there are many fruits out there that don’t require the extra step of cooking the fruit for it to be palatable. But the quince revival is real (I’d like to think the publication of Simply Quince had something to do with the renewed interest in the heirloom fruit!). Here’s why.

The fruit-bearing quince tree possesses qualities that make it an excellent ornamental and productive choice.

The tree is naturally dwarf, growing about 12 feet tall, and about as wide if you let it!. However, when pruned annually for light penetration, air circulation, and size, the tree will fit most any space requirement. During the dormant winter months, the gnarled, angular branches of the tree etch beautiful patterns against bare winter landscapes. The bare tree is a vision of natural wisdom after a recent snowfall.

Depending on the variety, white or pink flowers open the spring after planting. Quinces bloom a week or so later than apples, making them a good choice for farmers who want to entice pollinating bees to stay longer on their land.

Smyrna Quince blossoms are a pretty pink. Most other varieties, flower white with a blush of pink in the center.

All varieties of quince are self-fertilizing so you only need one tree. Quince trees require only 200 to 300 “chill hours” (the number of hours during which the temperature falls between 32 and 45 degrees F) in order to produce fruit which is why they grow well in so many places around the globe. Good yields (about 30 pounds of fruit/tree) of large, fragrant golden fruit can be expected within three years of planting.

Quince trees tolerate all kinds of soil. I know a grower in the San Joaquin Valley of California who planted his quince in heavy clay where other fruit trees would have had a tough time growing, and two quince orchardists, one on the east coast and one on the west coast, insist that their trees are part duck; they do so well in low moist areas. Having said that, the tree needs to be in a warm, sunny, sheltered spot for best results.

Plant new quinces from November to March. Yikes, that’s now. Order a bare-root quince from a reputable nursery. Two suggestions are listed below. Happy planting!

One Green World

Raintree Nursery

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