Growing Quince and Medlars
Neither of these fruits is grown widely, but both are perfectly easy. They are interesting and different fruits and have the virtue also of carrying attractive blossoms in the spring. Let us take thefirst.
Most of us are familiar with the ornamental shrub ‘Japonica’. It has red or orange flowers in the spring, thorns, carries a varying number of fruits the size of a golf ball and is often tied against a fence or wall. This is the ornamental quince, whose correct botanical name is Chaenomeles.
The quinces that are grown for their fruits are varieties of Cydonia oblonga. In May this has larger white or pink flowers, depending on the variety, followed by hard, pear-like fruits that are ready for picking in late October or November They cannot be eaten raw.
It makes an attractive tree which will grow perfectly well in the open, but is happier against a warm wall in colder districts. It is thornless, self-fertile and usually starts carrying fruit when five to six years old. The quince does best in a moist and rich soil in a sunny position so that both the fruits and fruit buds ripen properly.
Bush trees in the open garden should be planted 10-12ft(3-3.6m) apart. Those against a wall hardly lend themselves to any particular form of training, but a rough fan shape is probably as good as any.
For the first three to four years all trees should have the branch leaders pruned back in early winter by about half their length to encourage branching. Shoots that are overcrowded are cut back to two or three buds and those that are not in the way can be left to fill up space and to fruit After about four years no regular pruning will be needed, simply tidying up.
Trees growing on poor soil should be mulched and all should be fed in late winter with 2-4oz (60-120g) of ‘Growmore’ per sq. yd (m), according to their performance.
Gather the fruits in late October or early November before the frost gets at them and store them away from other fruits or their rather strong and sweet smell can taint apples and. Six to eight weeks in the dark is usually enough to mellow them for cooking.
The most commonly grown variety is Vranja from Yugoslavia. It is pear shaped, bright yellow, very fragrant and tender. It grows vigorously and crops at an early age.
Meech’s Prolific is another good variety.
The worst affliction of quinces is Leaf Blight which shows itself as spreading reddish patches turning black. Use Bordeaux mixture in June to control it.
Champion, October. Apple-shaped, golden. Good grower. Flesh crimson when cooked.
Common, November to March. Large, apple-shaped, golden-yellow. Strong grower, excellent flavour.
Meech’s Prolific, November to March. Large, round, golden. Heavy cropper. Can be used very late.
Portugal, November to March. Pear-shaped, mild flavour. Vigorous grower. Large downy leaves.
Smyrna, November to March. Large, yellow, with mild flavour. Vigorous grower, heavy cropping.
The other fruit, the medlar, is used for making jelly and is, if possible, even easier to grow. It originally came from the wilds of Asia and Europe, but probably not Britain.
Botanically the medlar is in the rose family and the fruit certainly looks vaguely like a very large rosehip. It is about the size of a golf ball.
The tree growth is somewhat wild and bushy. This makes it difficult to prune in an organised way and, indeed, the best system is to grow it as a bush and only prune it by cutting out shoots and branches to encourage a good shape.
It is rather more of an ornamental tree than a useful one and, on acid land, it can take on a splendid red autumn colour. Beyond this desirability, it has no particular preference as toexcept that it should never be subject to .
The fruit is interesting in that, until it is brown, the flesh is uneatable. Indeed, many people consider it to be uneatable raw even then, but it makes an excellent jelly for eating with meat or game.
Nottingham is the normal and main variety. The fruits are medium sized and the tree crops early in its life.
Another is the Dutch. It is less prolific, but has larger fruit.
Dutch, November to March. Large, good flavour. Free cropper, spreading in habit. Best variety for standard tree.
Nottingham, November to March. Medium-sized, pear-shaped, excellent flavour. Small-leaved. Upright in habit. Excellent as a bush tree.
The Royal, November to March. Medium-large with good acid flavour. Crops when young, excellent as a bush.