Entries in low maintenance shrubs (9)


Flowering Quince for Early Blooms

In my Alabama garden, Flowering quince, or Chaenomeles, begins blooming in January on leafless stems, and the blooms continue for at least two months. In cooler regions, blooming begins later, in February or March. The brilliant blossoms are always a welcome harbinger of spring.Sometimes my blooms get zapped by hard frost, but more flowers quickly appear. Edible 2" fruits follow the blooms, though they are seriously sour-tasting. The fruits do make good jelly, however.

Not only is this the first shrub to bloom in my garden each year, but it also is among the most durable of my shrubs. When we moved here in 1985, we found several quinces buried under weeds and vines on a hillside next to the drive. I was alerted to their presence by the colorful blooms that peeked through the brush.We decided to move them to a better location. It wasn't an easy transplant. They apparently had been on that hillside for a very long time; their roots were deeply embedded in the clay and almost hopelessly ensnared by their environment. We hacked out as much of them as possible and moved the shrubs to an area bordering the front lawn. Released from bondage and with better soil, they have flourished ever since with minimal care. Once established, they have proven to be drought-resistent. One year they were attacked by white flies, but they responded well to a good spray of horticultural oil.

Chaenomeles speciosa is a deciduous shrub that grows from 5-10' tall and wide. A spiny tangle of branches makes good hedges, screens and security barriers. After blooming, it is not showy, but its mass of green leaves provide nice structure for the garden.

Flowering quince will grow in USDA hardiness zones 4-9 in a wide range of soils, though it does best in slightly acid, loamy soil. It needs full sun for best flower production, but it will also grow in partial shade. 

Chaenomeles japonica and various hybrids are also available. Some of these lack thorns, are fruitless, or are smaller in habit than speciosa. Different varieties produce blooms in shades of red, pink, salmon, orange, or white, and some are noted for their gorgeous double blooms. Use cut branches for beautiful indoor flower arrangements.

Flowers are produced on the previous year's growth.To promote flowering and maintain shape and size, prune in spring after flowering is finished, removing some of the oldest branches down to the ground and cutting others back by a third or more, staggering cuts to maintain a natural appearance. Then apply a layer of compost or else use a slow-release fertilizer.

Flowering quince is a wonderful plant for wildlife, providing both food and shelter for birds and other critters. It is noted to be deer-resistant. 




Edgeworthia, a Delightful, Easy-Care Shrub 

Just three years ago I purchased an Edgeworthia chrysantha, also called Chinese Paperbush. This deciduous shrub was a small thing at the time, about a foot tall, but I was captivated by its sphere of tubular flowers, reminding me of a little girl's white tutu with frilly yellow petticoats.So far I have nothing but good things to say about this plant, which provides multi-seasonal interest with little work from me. My Edgeworthia, though not yet a mature specimen, has already grown into a delightful shrub whose architectural form, cinnamon-colored stems and soft fuzzy leaves, six inches or more in length, are already making a statement in the garden.The shrub is often advertised as growing to 5 feet, but it can grow in an umbrella shape up to 8 feet tall by 10 feet wide, so I have left plenty of room for it. My three year old Edgeworthia has already grown to about four feet tall and wide.

This public domain photo shows a mature Edgeworthia laden with silver buds.As beautiful as Edgeworthia is during the growing season, the most outstanding feature has to be its fragrant flowers. Tight silver buds begin to swell with the approach of winter, and the flowers bloom on the tips of naked branches in late winter through early spring. They appear at the same time as those of its cousin, Daphne odora. Both shrubs are members of the Thymelaecea family. Sometimes Edgeworthia is call Yellow Daphne. The silver outer surface of its long-lasting blooms are furry in appearance, while the insides of the tubules are waxy. The wonderful spicy fragrance will have you sniffing, but you have to get down and look upward to appreciate the full beauty of the nodding blooms.

This has been a trouble-free shrub for me. I have not done anything to it since I planted it, except to apply a fish emulsion solution to it in early spring. I planted it in in partial shade under the high branches of an oak tree. Edgeworthia prefers well-drained soil, but for best flower production it needs plenty of moisture during the growing season. If established in soil high in organic matter, it is fairly drought tolerant. It also is deer resistant. It grows well in hardiness zones 7-9, and it may survive in protected areas of zone 6. 

There are several cultivars of this shrub, some having orange or red blooms. Edgeworthia papyrifera is very similar, though smaller and generally not as fragrant nor as hardy as E. chrysantha.