Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
For fall and winter, the quince is a delightful fruit for adding to floral designs.
Once quince was a very popular fruit, and was widely available. Unfortunately, it fell out of favor. But, it is sometimes sold in specialty shops and farmers’ markets.
The large, pear-shaped fruits ripen to yellow. However, they can be used for floral arrangements before they reach that stage if desired. These are heavy, hardy fruits. They tend to last very well in floral designs. Quite fragrant, they were once used as natural room deodorizers. They can be used in most any kind of floral arrangement from wreaths and garlands to centerpieces.
One way to be sure you have access to fruits is to grow your own. The hardy plants are suited to USDA zones four through nine. Unlike apples, this does quite well in warmer climates. It has a moderate growth rate. Quince can be grown as a bushy tree or a multi-stem shrub. Under good conditions, the plants can reach ten to 20 feet in height.
Quince plants are easy to grow, and demand little attention. The plant will tolerate more drought than apples and other tree fruits. It does best in full sun, and prefers a fertile, moist, well-drained soil. In general, it will tolerate wetter soils than other fruit trees. This plant adapts well to a range of pH, including ones as low as 4, which is quite acidic.
As a relative of the apple, the quince plant is sometimes affected by the same fruit tree pests and diseases. Among the most serious is fire blight. One of the best ways to avoid fire blight is to prune as little as possible and avoid over-fertilizing the plant.
For the most part, quinces are self-fruitful. So, all you need is one plant in order to harvest fruits. A few varieties may require cross-pollination. For that reason, check the catalog description before choosing a variety.
A number of quince cultivars are available. Van Damen is an heirloom cultivar that was created by Luther Burbank, and was released in 1891. It reportedly was a cross between Portugal and Orange quince.
Smyrna has very large, late-ripening fruits that are round to oblong. This is one of the best for floral designs because the fruits keep so well. Other cultivars include Champion, Meeches, Scibosa, and Vranja.
Quince is a member of the Rosaceae family. Its closest relative would be the pear. The flowering quince, which is a favorite spring-flowering shrub, is an entirely different species than the true quince.
Some experts believe that the apple mentioned in the Bible might actually have been quince, since apples weren’t native to the area.
Quince has been in cultivation for over 4000 years. It was apparently native to Turkey and Persia, now known as Iran. This was especially popular in Greece and Italy. It has naturalized in parts of the Mediterranean.
Revered by the ancients, this was said to be the golden apple that Paris bestowed upon Aphrodite. This was known to the Greeks as Cydonian apples, named after a city in Crete. The Romans introduced the fruit throughout the empire. The Normans introduced it to the British Isles.
Among the earliest tree fruits to be planted in the New World, it was commonly grown in America during the Colonial era. Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello.