Quinces are ornamental, medium-sized, flowering trees with pretty blossom and good autumn colour, but they are mainly grown for their fruit. These cannot be eaten raw but make excellent jelly or preserve. Quinces are often confused with the shrub Chaenomeles (Japanese quince), the fruit of which is also edible.
Quinces tolerate a range of soil but grow best in a deep, fertile, moisture-retentive soil. Although they are hardy, a warm, sunny, sheltered spot is required as the flowers are susceptible to frost and sun is needed for the fruit to ripen.
Quinces are grown as half-standard or bush trees. They are often grown on the rootstocks Quince A and C or sometimes on their own roots and are best bought as a two year old tree with the first branches already formed.
Plant new quinces between November and March. Bush trees should be about 3.5m (12ft) apart, half-standards about 4.5m (15ft) apart. Stake trees for the first three or four years. Quinces are self-fertile and usually start cropping when five- or six-years-old.
As with any fruiting tree, feeding and mulching is important. In February apply a general fertiliser, Growmore for example, at 100g per sq m (3oz per sq yd). In late March apply sulphate of ammonia at 35g per sq m (1oz per sq yd). Mulch in early spring with well-rotted farmyard manure or compost.
Water well in dry during dry spells in spring and summer.
The fruits should be left on the tree as long as possible to develop their flavour, provided there is no danger of frosts. They usually ripen in late October or early November when they will be golden-coloured and aromatic.
Only undamaged fruits should be picked and then stored in a cool, dark place on shallow trays. Ensure the fruits do not touch and do not wrap them. Allow them to ‘mellow’ for six and eight weeks before use. Quinces are strongly aromatic so avoid storing with other fruits. They will keep for two or three months.
Pruning and training
Quinces fruit mostly on the tips of the shoots made the previous year. They do not form many fruiting spurs. Prune and train in the dormant season between late autumn and early spring. The branch framework is developed along the same lines as for an apple. After the fourth year, only light pruning is necessary apart from the occasional removal of crowding or low-lying branches.
Pruning established trees
- For good cropping, prune every winter, when growth can be thinned to improve light penetration and air circulation
- Remove no more than a quarter of the oldest branches, by cutting back to the point of origin or to a shoot that is one-third of the diameter of the branch being removed
- Remove crowded branches, very vigorous shoots and branches showing little growth