By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
In Chinese culture, there is a tradition of displaying a blossoming peach tree or plum tree during the Chinese New Year. With the belief that blossoming flowers on the lunar New Year will bring prosperity, choosing just the right tree that will bloom on New Year's Day is no small task.
Chinese immigrants have continued this custom in the U.S. In San Francisco's Chinatown, Chaenomeles, also known as flowering quince, has become a substitute for the peach and plum trees, as it will reliably flower in that region around the Chinese New Year. In fact, quince, peach, and plum trees are all members of the Rosaceae family, making the swap a true family affair.
Native to China, the flowering quince is a perfect alternative to peach and plum trees, bringing good luck and prosperity to homes as branches are easy to force, and the buds open to beautiful, showy blossoms. However, typically the flowering quince's branches have long, sharp thorns, which can leave gardeners feeling anything but lucky.
A popular alternative is the Double Take series of flowering quince. Developed by Dr. Tom Ranney and his team at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center in North Carolina, the Double Take Chaenomeles series features big, beautiful blooms in four rich colors, on branches that do not bear the painful thorns of traditional Chaenomeles.
Double Take Scarlet™ flowering quince offers a truly bold color choice. Large red, camellia-like double flowers fill the stems, which are perfect for flower arranging or forcing. Double Take Pink™ features full, frilly blooms that are reminiscent of the flowers of the fruit trees that bring good fortune in the Chinese New Year. Double Take Orange™ puts on a spectacular display of large, double flowers in an intense orange color and Double Take Peach™ brings a new color to the thornless Chaenomeles series with soft peachy-pink flowers.
All plants in the series are best grown in part sun to full sun, and will get to be about 4-5' tall and wide. They are hardy in USDA zones 5-9 and once established, are very drought tolerant.
Steeped in tradition, the quince is also mentioned in the Book of Songs, the oldest known collection of Chinese poetry. One of the stories follows a traditional courting ritual in which a maiden gives three gifts to her beau – a quince, peach, and plum. Perhaps in an updated version of the story, the maiden could surprise her intended with three beautifully colored ornamental shrubs in the Double Take™ series of thornless flowering quince.
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