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England: Looking for fruit? Your plant may be a hybrid or need pollination

POSTED: April 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
/For The Times

Some varieties of the quince plant produce fruit, but hybrids may not.

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Question: Can you tell me why my flowering quince never produces fruit, even though it has lots of blooms each year?

Answer: There are many selections of flowering quince. Most of those available on the market today are cultivars or hybrids of Chaenomeles speciosa, a plant native to China, Japan and Korea.

Flowering quinces are related to the edible quince (Cydonia oblonga), which is also a native of temperate regions of Asia. As the common name implies, the fruit of the flowering quince is not its strong suit.

Although not generally considered an important trait, most flowering quinces are capable of fruit production. The fruit is not as tasty as that of the common quince, but because it contains a lot of pectin, it is good for adding to jelly or preserves.

If you have a plant that never produces fruit, it may be because your particular plant needs cross pollination with a different cultivar. Your plant may also be a hybrid variety that will not produce fruit regardless of pollination.

Flowering quinces are practically indestructible shrubs. They look rather bland during most of the year, but grab attention when they bloom in late winter or early spring, before many other plants are in bloom.

Many selections of flowering quince are available. Some may grow to 10 feet in height and width, while others are compact and low growing.

Some selections are especially good for fruit, while others are known for unique flower color or the ability to produce a range of colors on the same plant. The twisted branches of one low growing selection (Contorta) make it suitable for bonsai.

Flowering quinces can be useful as hedges or barriers. Most have thorns, but there are a few thornless varieties.

They are easy to grow, tolerating extremes in cold and heat. They also thrive in a wide variety of soil conditions.

Prune flowering quince within a few months after bloom. Blooms develop on wood grown during the previous year.

To encourage bushy growth, some of the older branches should be pruned back hard each year. Many of the cultivars can also be trained as espalier to grow against a wall or fence.

Q: What is the meaning of the word cultivar?

A: A cultivar is the result of the propagation of an individual or group of plants selected because of one or more particularly desirable traits. That trait is usually the result of natural variation that occurs within a species.

The words "selection" and "cultivar" mean essentially the same thing. A cultivar is the result of the propagation, or cultivation, of a plant that is selected because of a desirable trait.

Plant breeders are constantly on the lookout for variations that might be developed into cultivars with unique flower or leaf color, disease resistance, growth form or other marketable traits. The result is an ever-increasing variety of landscaping options to choose from.

Q: How should I prepare soil to be tested?

A: Take several scoops of soil, down to a depth of 8 inches, from different spots throughout the area you want tested. Mix these thoroughly in a bucket and remove about a pint of this mixture for testing.

To test soil from different locations (vegetable garden, flower beds, lawn, for example), follow the above procedure for each site and keep the samples separate.

Bags for shipping soil samples to the lab, along with complete instructions, are available at the county extension office.

Russ England is a Master Gardener trained and certified in horticulture and related areas through by the Georgia Cooperative Extension.



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