Memories are triggered by many things, the snippet of a song, the whiff of a scent, a few sentences in a book...

I was reading along through Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven and came to a section about ornamental quince growing in the garden. "Their fruits, which in autumn are as handsome as their flowers, make excellent jelly; in fact, there is everything to be said in favor of this well-mannered, easy-going, obliging and pleasantly old-fashioned plant."

That's all it took. I immediately remembered my grandmother making quince jelly and talking to my mom one fall day about her quince tree having fruit on it. I don't remember actually seeing or noticing the quince tree when we visited, but I think it was on the left side of her backyard, half down toward the alley.  But who knows. I did look through grandma's diary entries and noted that on November 2, 1925, she wrote,

"I ironed quite a bit after I got my house cleaned up. Mrs. Little came after some quinces for a friend..."

By the time I came along, grandma's quince tree must have been at least 40 to 50 years old.

In only a few minutes of online searching, I surmised that most of the quinces Sackville-West wrote about in the 1950s, including Cydonia lagenaria, Cydonia nivalis,  Cydonia cathayensis have all been moved by botanists to the Chaenomeles genus.  That's something to remember when reading about old plants or reading quotes from long ago garden writers.  Botanists change the names of plants sometimes as they learn more about them,  so it takes a minute or two, or more, of searching online to figure out what those plants are named today.

What I am going to plant in my garden is Cydonia oblonga, which the botanists left all alone in that genus.  At least that's what I think I'm getting. I ordered the only quince tree for sale by Stark Bros. and they just labeled it "quince".

Perhaps it is the same as the one that grew in grandma's garden. Or maybe she had another variety of quince.  No matter.  In my garden it will still be "grandma's quince tree".  I've got a spot all picked out for it and expect it will be shipped this week, in the knick of time to plant bare root.

Then in a few years, when I pick the first fruit, maybe I'll actually make some jelly with it...


  1. Another Sissinghurst fan!!! I read and reread anything from Vita Sackville-West. Went to Sissinghurst last fall and fell in love!!! As for Quince: yes, I too adore it.

  2. That quote from your grandmother's diary so reminded me of my grandmother. Thank you.~~Dee

  3. Is there a difference between the flowering quince and the fruit-bearing quince? I don't think I've ever seen quinces on my flowering shrubs.

  4. Sissinghurst - what a fantastic garden. We were there last summer and we loved it.

    Funnily enough, my mum made quince jelly too, and I can remember her straining it through muslin. She also made redcurrant jelly which we ate with meat, particularly lamb. It doesn't take much to be that child again, standing watching!

  5. 'Quite a lot of ironing' got my attention. I appreciate that you are ever the optimist expecting enough fruit for making jelly. Wait, you are going to make jelly? I know how you love the kitchen.

  6. My parents had a Quince tree when I was growing up in WV. If I remember correctly, my mom made spoon sweets with the fruit.
    I do remember my dad making a pie with the fruit for Thanksgiving one year. My brother had no idea it was quince. He complimented my dad on the great apple pie. My dad did not correct him. LOL!

  7. I love plants with stories! What a good way to remember your Grandmother. The flowers on quince trees are quite striking. I remember fruit trees in both my grandparents yards and my maternal grandmother always kept a kitchen garden. I am happy that 50 years later more and more city dwellers are returning to this practice. Happy Spring!


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