Friday 6 December 2019

Chaenomeles are enduring

A small garden needn't be a boring one if you use chaenomeles, says Marie Staunton

Marie Staunton with some chaenomeles
Marie Staunton with some chaenomeles

Marie Staunton

Chaenomeles are enduring, beautiful plants that have a good place in any garden, but particularly those with a cottage feel.

My nana planted one in our garden at home 50 years ago, and it's still going strong and has flowered beautifully for every one of those years.

Most of those available in garden centres will only reach a modest metre in height, so they are a good choice for a smaller garden.

Chaenomeles prefer sun – don't we all? – and aren't fussy about soil type, thankfully.

Pruning is mainly for shape, so it really depends on what way you would like to grow it.

If you intend to grow it as a shrub in a mixed border, prune after the flowers have gone over. Prune back to strong new growth lower down the stem, and I would also take out a quarter of the old or damaged stems from the base each year.

The other way of growing them is in the same way you would an apple or a pear tree – in an espalier or fan shape. Pruning is then easy enough. All you need to do is prune back to a couple of good-looking buds in summer.

Marie Staunton with some chaenomeles

If you have a bit of spare time and fancy growing one as a wall shrub or along a wrought iron railing, head into the Botanic Gardens in Dublin and have a look at the one running along the railing of the director's house.

The fruit Chaenomeles yield is called quince, and I've made jam from them with great success.

There is another member of the quince family called Cydonia oblonga, which will yield bigger fruit and is also great for jam.

This is a tree rather than a shrub, so it would be better suited to life grown as an espalier to afford it the warmth of a south-facing wall.

Have you heard of a plant called Sophora tetraptera 'Gnome'? It's one of those plants that comes under the rare and unusual bracket, but it could easily be grown in any garden. Why I mention it is because it is a good candidate for growing as a bonsai or as a containerised plant that would suit a small garden.

In the know

Chaenomeles can make for a fantastic wall plant when given the right support and training

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