As we swing into spring, the incredibly showy magnolias are bursting into bloom everywhere, and I admit there’s not much that can beat a full sized Magnolia x soulangeana in full cry. But I’d like to sing the praises of a less glamorous plant, one that is probably considered old-fashioned and doesn’t feature on too many professional garden design plans.
This shrub goes by the names of Japonica, Japanese quince, or flowering quince. Botanically it is known as Chaenomeles speciosa, which grows to about 2 metres, or Chaenomeles japonica, generally smaller at around 1 metre.
I have a soft spot for this quietly unassuming shrub.One of my earliest ‘plant’ memories is of admiring the beauty of its deep pink flowers along a bare stem, inextricably linked with images of ikebana and Japan.
This specimen grows out on a roadside corner near my house, completely neglected and half tucked into some other bushes. But every year for at least 2 months from mid-July onwards, it flowers away beautifully. The flowers seem to cling on effortlessly through wind and rain, and last longer than the blossoms we’ll be getting on the ornamental cherries soon.
I like this shrub better if it is left alone to form its rather rangy, some would say scraggly, shape – when I’ve seen it tightly clipped it doesn’t look right. So it’s not for every garden – I would recommend it for an inconspicuous corner of a larger garden, planted amongst other shrubs, where it can disappear into the background for summer and autumn, then cheer you up enormously over the winter and spring. Make sure to clip off long stems and bring them inside.
The most common colour is deep pink, however you can also find shades of lighter pink, orange, and the white and green flowers shown below.
I would always go for the dark pink myself, probably from the nostalgia of that childhood memory.