Phil the groundhog predicted an early spring and he was right on. Groundhog Day was Feb. 2 and spring arrived at my house Feb. 3. Great Scott that was fast! I know I am slightly exaggerating but as I write this, on Feb. 3, I have the sunroom door open for any pollinators that might want to come inside and visit for a moment.
Though I have sort of joked about spring arriving, I did notice the first blooms of the season on my favorite flowering quince of all time, the Double Take Scarlet. Not only were blooms open but the first butterfly of the year showed up hitting on pansies and dianthus and yes, the flowering quince too.
Once known as the Storm series it has now become the Double Take series for the impressive double flowers that bloom over a really long period. I’ve been growing them for six years in Georgia, in Savannah, Hamilton, and now Columbus, and the number of days in bloom is amazing. The blooming period seems to start in early February and last until early April, which is simply incredible.
Since the last time I wrote them, the series has added Double Take Peach, a most rare and wonderful color for the garden. With four colors to choose from – Scarlet, Peach, Pink, and Orange – everyone should find a color to fit their palette.
Botanically speaking, they are all selections of Chaenomeles speciose, which is native to China. Proven Winners is bringing us these shrubs that will reach approximately 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide at maturity, boasting dazzling double flowers with petal counts.
The old-fashioned flowering quince always seems to be bare of flowers on the tips or tops of the plant, but these blooms that reach up to 21/2 inches in diameter stretch outward to the tip of the stem. That means the blossoms are almost as large as a tennis ball. They are cold hardy from zones 5-9 and deer resistant.
Start shopping now to make sure you locate your source. If your local garden center doesn’t have them, you should be able to get them by mail order or online order. When you get yours, select a site in full to part sun. These great flowering quinces deserve to be planted in a well-prepared shrub bed. Incorporate 3 to 4 inches of organic matter. Till your soil deeply and dig your hole about three times as wide as the rootball, but no deeper. Place the flowering quince in the hole and backfill to two-thirds. Tamp the soil and water to settle. Add the remaining backfill and repeating the process, which is getting all of the air pockets out and providing a great start for acclimatization of your new shrub.
These plants bloom on old wood so remember to not get pruning happy when they are in their deciduous or dormant state of winter. If any pruning is needed, make these cuts after the spring bloom. Of course, these make breathtaking cut flowers, so select as needed.
You’ll love how the Double Take flowering quince partners with spring blooming bulbs like daffodils, Dutch iris, and Peruvian lilies and treasure a landscape that has them paired with dogwoods, redbuds and the old-fashioned snowball viburnum
To me, the flowering quince has always been that harbinger of spring. It’s the one plant that shouts with its colorful blooms, “We Have Survived Winter!” I know everyone is joking about what a short mild winter we have had. I assure you, in the South, a week is about all we can stand.
So, we’ll give Groundhog Phil the high five and a heart-felt thanks. Those of you still in the big chill, start shopping for the Double Take flowering quinces so you can celebrate in style when spring really does arrive.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)