Flowering quince's many colors work well with spring bulbs

Backyard Q&A

March 09, 2003|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

I would like to plant spring-blooming shrubs to complement my spring bulbs. Would you recommend the quince for this purpose?

There are several quinces that will work well with your bulbs. The flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) produces outstanding white, pink, or red flowers in early to mid spring on upright 6- to 8-foot plants. If you were looking for a medium-sized, dense shrub that could function as a screen or barrier, I would select this plant. There should be several cultivars available through local garden centers.

If you were looking for a smaller plant, I would recommend the Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) or one of the hybrid quinces (Chaenomeles x superba).

Plants from these groups are mounding in appearance and grow 3-5 feet tall. Be aware that quinces sucker from the base and produce thorny branches. They will become quite thick over time and are best left to grow naturally. They will not prune up into nice neat balls or columns. Also, they are susceptible to fire blight and scab disease, so be sure to select disease-resistant varieties.

I ordered a clematis vine from a mail-order catalog. Will I need a trellis for the vine to grow on?

Clematis is a weak-branched climbing vine that attaches to structures by twining around them. Without support, clematis sprawls on the ground. It will easily attach itself to chicken wire or chain link fencing, and with a little help can be trained on a wood trellis.

Clematis can also be planted at the base of a shrub and will attach itself to the branches as it grows up through the plant. In any case, it takes several years for a clematis vine to establish itself. During that time you may need to nurse it along and help it attach itself.

You can use twist ties. Clematis likes its roots to be cool, but grows and flowers best when the top is in a sunny location. Some gardeners plant low-growing shrubs around the base of the vine to shade the roots, and then allow the top to grow onto a trellis above. If you would like to grow the vine up a pole or wood fence post, I would wrap it with chicken wire first. Chicken wire painted flat black is difficult to see and will not detract from the beauty of the vine.

Checklist

1. Do not broadcast fresh manure or fertilizer of any kind on frozen ground. Lime, however, can be applied during the winter according to soil test recommendations.

2. Hold bare-root shrubs, trees and fruit plants in a cool, well-ventilated area until they can be transplanted. Alternatively, heel them in outside by covering the root systems with moist soil.

3. Store bird feed in sealed containers to prevent rodent and squirrel feeding. Squirrels will chew through plastic lids.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site www.hgic. umd.edu.

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