The quince is an underdog among fruits, perhaps because it must be cooked before it is edible. Since this processing is no more difficult than stewing tomatoes, quinces deserve to be more widely grown both for their distinctive fruit and their ornamental value.
The plants are 15 to 20 feet tall and slow growing so they can be trained as trees or as multiple-stemmed shrubs. White or pale pink 2-inch blossoms appear at the tips of new growth in spring; flowering is therefore late enough to escape frost damage. The 2- to 4-inch dark green leaves have white, feltlike undersides; foliage rather sparsely covers attractively angled or gnarled branches. The large fruit is decorative, and after harvest the foliage turns yellow before dropping.
Wherever winter temperatures remain above -15° F—except in the low deserts of the Southwest and West—quinces stand a good chance of success. They prefer a heavy but well-drained soil but will tolerate damp soil as well as light soils and even some drought.
Fireblight is the one serious disease of quince, especially in humid regions. Since fireblight attacks new growth, avoid fertilizing and heavy pruning, both of which will stimulate vulnerable shoots. Codling moth is the principal insect pest.
The trees are self-fertile and begin bearing at four to five years. They continue to produce for 35 years. The fruit is rounded or somewhat elongated, depending on the variety. Ripening occurs in late summer or early fall, when fruit color changes from green to yellow. The fruit will be hard when ripe but needs careful handling because it bruises easily; storage life is only a few weeks.
Only a few cultivars are available, with little difference among them.
Trailing blackberries tied to a trellis
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