Texas Scarlet QuinceChaenomeles x superba ‘Texas Scarlet’
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Chaenomeles x superba ‘Texas Scarlet’
Outdoor Growing zone
The Texas Scarlet Quince is a spreading deciduous shrub growing about 4 feet tall, and a little wider. The branches are usually thornless, and they are smothered in early spring by brilliant scarlet-red blooms with bright yellow centers. These are often followed by apple-like fruits that make delicious jellies. The glossy green leaves are attractive all summer, and this plant is perfect in beds, in semi-wild areas, as a hedge, or trained to grow on a sunny wall or fence.
The Texas Scarlet Quince will grow best in full sun, and in any well-drained soil, from drier sands to tough clay. It is normally free of pests and diseases and deer usually leave it alone. Pruning in spring after blooming will keep it compact, and once established it is drought resistant and easy to grow.
It is hard to have too many spring blooming shrubs in your garden – it’s such a wonderful season that we want to fill it with blooms. It is sad that some of the traditional spring bloomers can look so bad through summer, becoming untidy, and with diseases and pests attacking their foliage – they end up distracting from your summer shrubs. It doesn’t have to be that way, though, because plants like the Texas Scarlet Quince look fresh, healthy and green all through summer, after putting on a knockout show in spring. This spreading deciduous shrub is smothered for weeks with glorious bright red blooms on the bare twigs and among the first leaves. Used in beds it puts on its show and then steps aside gracefully. Trained to grow up a wall – a popular thing with flowering quince – it will bloom even earlier, and then leave a cooling green overcoat in place for the summer. It makes a great low hedge too, so there is sure to be a place in your garden for this kind of accommodating beauty. Invite it in, you’ll be glad you did.
The Texas Scarlet Quince is a dense deciduous shrub, growing 3 or 4 feet wide, and spreading a little more than that, perhaps up to 5 feet across. It has dense, twiggy growth and broad, mounding form, making it perfect for the front of larger beds or the middle of smaller ones. When tied to a wall or fence it will grow quite a bit taller, to 6 feet or more. The new stems are reddish-brown, with a rough texture and covered in short, soft hairs like down. Some quince are very thorny, but this one is almost completely free of them – a big bonus when pruning. The leaves are about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide, with a fine saw-tooth edge and a smooth, glossy surface that is a reliable and attractive mid-green from spring to fall. It stays clean and fresh, making this an attractive background shrub during the months it isn’t in bloom.
Blooming begins early, sometimes in mid-winter in warm zones or sheltered spots, but usually by late winter and in March and April. Flowering, even on younger plants, is profuse, and the branches are literally obscured by the clusters of 1½ inch flowers that cover the older stems. Each bloom is an open bowl of five broad, overlapping petals in the most powerful shade of scarlet-red to scarlet-orange. In the center is a bright cluster of yellow stamens, and the combination of simplicity of form with powerful coloring makes for a wonderful show in any garden. The flowers are followed by round, greenish to yellow apple-like fruits about 2 inches across, which ripen in late summer and into the fall. These have a wonderful aroma – if you do nothing else, put some in a bowl on a table to perfume the room. Although very hard, acidic and not edible when raw, these fruits make the most delicious preserves and jelly. The wonderful aroma is still there, and the tangy sweetness is perfect on toast or with cold-cuts, depending on your tastes. Leave them until after a frost for the best flavor.
This is a great spring-blooming shrub to use in your beds, in any style of garden. Let it grow naturally in sunny, semi-wild parts of your garden. Trim it a bit more and it is perfect in the most formal setting. Quince are often trained onto walls and fences, and they really thrive when grown that way, as well as turning something harsh and ugly into something beautiful. Because it blooms on older shoots you can trim it as a hedge up to 4 feet tall and still enjoy profuse blooming.
The Texas Scarlet Quince is completely hardy in zone 5 and through all the warmer zones into zone 9, enjoying heat and sunshine in abundance.
Full sun is best for this bush, although it will tolerate a little afternoon shade in hot zones. It is very easy to grow and thrives in almost any soils at all, except for wet ones. It will grow in clay, but also in sandy soils, after some attention to watering until it becomes established.
Besides admiring it, no particular care is needed for the Texas Scarlet Quince, which is a great plant for busy gardeners with other things to do. Pests and diseases are rare, and deer usually leave it alone. It can be pruned after blooming, cutting back branches of the previous year to just a few inches long, especially when training it on a wall. Trimming back the new growth in late summer can be done without affecting blooming.
The true quince is called Cydonia, and the fruits are larger and yellow, but not better for jelly-making. Two similar-looking flowering quince, today called Chaenomeles, were introduced from China and Japan a long time ago – Chaenomeles speciosa in 1796 and Chaenomeles japonica in 1869. When they were grown together they naturally hybridized, and before this was realized the hybrid plants were sold as ‘Cydonia maulei‘. Later, when botanists got it all sorted, it was named correctly as Chaenomeles x superba. This hybrid brings together the best features of the two parents, in a plant that is tougher and more vigorous than both of them. This cross has happened many times, and the variety called ‘Texas Scarlet’ was found in the late 1940s by Walter Bosworth Clarke, who owned W.B. Clarke & Co. Nursery, in San Jose California. It was named and released in 1951 by Thomas Bell Foster Nurseries in Houston, Texas, who probably obtained it when the Clarke Nursery went out of business in 1950.
We love the brilliant red colors of this plant in bloom, and so will you. A very vigorous and reliable plant, even in difficult locations, it brightens spring like no other shrub can. These plants, once ‘old-fashioned’ are now desirable heirloom plants, so order now, because our stock will soon all be gone.