At first glance it may seem that these early spring weeks are quite dark and dull. But look a little closer and you will see that there are a lot of beautiful flowers around at the moment. Here is one of my Imbolc favourites: Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) Japanse sierkwee.
- This plant has edible fruit and flowers,
- Grows easily in Amsterdam,
- Roots from cuttings and layered branches,
- Provides nectar through the darker months,
- Is spiky and protective,
- Looks very pretty in early spring.
The flowers emerge by this time and keep on blooming until April or even longer. They grow from quite architectural and spiky branches. The shrub is deciduous and the leaves grow back as the flowers fade. They are lush and glossy. Those branches can reach out a long way or can be easily pruned into a sturdy almost impenetrable hedge. I used to have one such hedge in my Somerset cottage garden. I am very pleased that Japanese quince surrounds my Amsterdam school building and am delighted that Amsterdam council seem to like to use it as urban landscaping. You can read about the growing conditions which are preferred by this plant on Plants for a Future.
Japanese quince flowers can be red, bright pink, peach-coloured, white, pale orange or anything in between. There are a number of different coloured varieties growing in landscaping along Johannes van der Waalstraat in my part of town. I plan to take a few small cuttings some time soon and will try to introduce the plant to my volkstuin and the orchards of Park Frankendael.
The fruit, or quinces can be surprisingly large. They are edible raw or cooked (foraging site dependent of course). I rarely find very many so I usually clean and chop one into small pieces and then cook them up with other fruit to make a sort of compote. The photo below is of two pots of such compote or jam made by Ilko who volunteers at the orchards. The yellow one contains Japanese quince. The easiest (and perhaps tastiest) thing that I do with these fruit is to simply add them (chopped) to my everlasting Rumtopf.
Japanese quince is a member of the Rosaceae family. The showy, numerous stamen in five petaled flowers point to them belonging to the Rose family.