Plantswoman FIONA EDMOND, who owns the award-winning Green Island Gardens in Ardleigh, shares her gardening tips. Today she focuses on Chaenomeles...

Chaenomeles or ornamental quince are spring flowering shrubs related to Cydonia or the quince tree, which are grown for their showy blooms in shades of red, pink, orange and white in spring. Flowering only for two weeks in the year and fairly nondescript foliage for the rest of the year along with spiny branches some may consider them plants not worthy of a place in their garden. However if grown as a climber or wall shrub they can produce a spectacular display of flowers in spring followed by attractive yellow quince like fruits, yet take up very little space in the garden. They can also provide an effective spiny barrier as a deterrant to burglars.

There are 3 species C.cathayensis, and C.speciosa from China and C.japonica from Japan the latter two being most often grown. Four hybrids have been bred from combinations of these however the most common is C x superba a hybrid of C.speciosa and C.japonica. C. speciosa is naturally a tall spreading plant making it ideal to be trained as a wall shrub growing to 1.2m, while C japonica is much shorter, spreading and thorny.

The fruits are very hard and unpleasant to eat raw, though they do soften and become less astringent after frost (when they are said to be “bletted”) Theu are however suitable for making liquueurs as well as preserves as they contain more pectin than apples and true quinces. Although the flavour is said to be inferior to that of true quinces they do contain more vitamin c than lemons.

For the really adventurous gardener chaenomeles make lovely specimins for training as bonsai.

The varieties I recommend are as follows:

Chaenomeles speciosa 'Geisha Girl' is also suitable for wall-training. It has double, deep-apricot flowers and does not produce much fruit

Chaenomeles x superba 'Cameo' is a fairly new cultivar and not unlike 'Geisha Girl', but the semi-double flowers are a little darker, a peachy pink. It flowers slightly later than most others and the flowers make a particularly effective contrast to the fresh green of the new leaves.

Chaenomeles x superba ‘Pink Lady’ is a deciduous spreading shrub with lovely apple blossom pink cup shaped flowers borne in clusters and singly from March to May.Chaenomeles speciosa 'Nivalis' is a highly desirable shrub, having snow-white single flowers. It is one of the earliest to flower, so is a good choice to train against a wall for February flowers.