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Archive for November 2011

AN UNCOMMON FALL FRUIT

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Some older adults have probably encountered a quince, but today they’re a fruit rarely found in grocery stores, farmers’ markets, or even backyard orchards. However, in the 18th century they were quite common in the fruit orchards of New England. Originally native to southwest Asia and the Caucasus region, quince (Cydonia oblonga) are cultivated in several areas around the world. Those found in specialty US markets are likely to have been grown in Argentina.

It’s not surprising that quince aren’t popular today. The fruit of most American quince cultivars is hard and astringent… too dense and sour to be eaten raw. I once tried eating one straight off a tree and could barely make a dent in it with my teeth. The lumpy, golden-yellow, pear-shaped fruit aren’t generally considered attractive, but they do have a marvelous sweet perfume when ripe. The fruit can be quite large, up to a pound in size.

Because the fruit are high in pectin they’re used in making jams and jellies. In fact, the word ‘marmalade’ is derived from the Portuguese word ‘marmelo’ which means ‘quince.’ Marmalade originally referred only to quince jam. It’s interesting to note that quince take on a pink to red color when cooked and can also be used to enhance the flavor of apple pies, applesauce, and apple cider .

Quince trees are relatively small fruit trees, growing only to about 15 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. The growth is irregular, giving the tree a gnarled appearance as it ages. Quince are hardy in Zones 5to 9 and require winter chilling to stimulate flowering in the coming year. The young fruit are covered with mealy fuzz that wears off as they mature. The pink or white flowers are produced in the spring after pears flower and after the quince leaves emerge.

Quince can be grown in our area. They do best on a site with fertile soil and full sun. While quince are self-fertile and don’t require cross pollination, growers indicate that cross pollination increases fruit set. The trees need a protected spot where they aren’t subjected to temperature extremes. One challenge to growing quince in our area is that they’re vulnerable to attack by codling moth and fireblight.

So why consider growing quince? One reason might be for the ‘new’ and improved quince cultivars available from specialty fruit tree nurseries like Raintree Nursery in Morton, Washington (www.raintreenursery.com or 1-800-391-8892). Raintree offers foreign cultivars that are different than the ones that were once common in the US. These cultivars come from different parts of the world and have better tasting or earlier maturing fruit along with some disease resistance.

One of these is ‘Karp

s Sweet Quince’ from Peru. According to Raintree it has ‘uniquely sweet, juicy and non-astringent fruit, especially when grown in warm climates’ such as California. Another quince is ‘Aromatnaya Russian Quince’ from southern Russia. It has fruit with a pineapple flavor that is ‘sweet enough to eat fresh.’ Raintree indicates it ‘ripens in October and needs to be stored on a windowsill until it starts to soften.’ Ekmek comes to US gardeners via Western Turkey. It has reliable large crops of juicy, yellow, pear-shaped fruit that ripen in September.

Home gardeners who like to try something different might want to consider growing the uncommon quince.
Published: 11/4/2011 10:33 AM

GARDENING FOR THE CURE

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and almost anywhere you look you can find pink, from pink ribbons, to pink ties, and even pink football uniforms. With all that, it’s no surprise that the nursery industry has also made efforts to create awareness about breast cancer and raise money for research.

Spring Meadow Nursery has developed the ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ hydrangea which provides a pink twist on the classic ‘Annabelle’ popular since the 1960s because of it’s hardiness and reliability. ‘Annabelle’ is a smooth leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) with large, rounded, white flowers and dark green wide leaves.

‘Invincibelle Spirit’ is the first ever pink smooth leaf hydrangea on the market. The flowers start out as dark pink buds and open to hot pink flowers that fade to soft pink and then green. The shrub grows to height of 3 to 4 feet and a width of 4 to five feet, producing flowers all season long. No matter what the soil, the flowers stay pink.

‘Invincibelle Spirit’ is touted as being both ‘eye-catching and easy-care.’ It isn’t fussy about soil and is more hardy and drought tolerant than most other hydrangeas on the market. It’s rated for partial sun to full sun. In our area I would suggest placing it in a location where it gets some shade in the afternoon.

Pruning is easy. The smooth leaf hydrangeas bloom on new wood, so in early spring cut ‘Invincebelle Spirit’ back to a height of 1 to 2 feet. Pruning it back in this way will lead to a fuller plant with stronger stems that will better support the large flowers so… they won’t be as likely to flop over from their weight.

I was lucky enough to be given a small transplant of ‘’Invincebelle’ two years ago and this summer was the first time it bloomed. I didn’t prune it back in the spring because I wanted to give it a chance to grow and become stronger and better established. Without the pruning, the flowers did indeed flop over. However, the flowers were a lovely pink color and this very hardy hydrangea survived the two surprise cold snaps that injured a number of other ornamental trees and shrubs in our region.

Proven Winners, who markets ‘Invincebelle Spirit,’ is donating $1.00 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for each plant sold and hopes to raise $1 million. Proven Winners are not the first plant lovers to show their support for the fight against breast cancer with a pink flowered plant. In 2009, All-American Rose Selections picked ‘Pink Promise’ to support breast cancer awareness. ‘Pink Promise’ is a beautiful hybrid tea rose with fragrant large pink blooms set against dark green foliage.

Terra Nova Nurseries, perennial plant breeders in Oregon, developed a purple coneflower with large fragrant, soft pink flowers. The plant reaches a height of 20 inches and width of 24 inches. Terra Nova Nurseries donates $.25 from each plant sold to the Oregon & SW Washington affiliate of the Susan G. Komen.

You can show your support for breast cancer awareness and research by planting one of these pink flowered plants or by planting any pink flowers and making a donation to the breast cancer organization of your choice.
Published: 10/28/2011 10:24 AM

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