Quinces reek of the Renaissance. They conjure dreams of splendid feasts in a 15th Century Florence palazzo, or Dutch Old Master still lives, complete with dead pheasants and a jug of hock.
I bought a little quince tree fourteen years ago when I first moved into my present home. At the time old fruit trees, such as quinces, figs and medlars weren’t in the slightest bit fashionable and I had to buy what I could find, which was a one-year-old maiden Meeches Prolific, which I had to pick up from Keepers Nursery in Kent. I really rate Keepers, and still regularly order from them today. It wasn’t ideal for a pot, but that’s all I had. The poor old soul (yes, of course plants have souls) struggled in there in my north-east facing garden for ten years. It produced virtually nothing, but I put it down to its being in a pot.
When I finally got the plot I’m on now, it got trundled, by a very squeaky wheelbarrow up there. I thought I’d put it on a steep bank just behind my official plot, not least so the roots could help keep the bank stable. I decided to keep it as a lollipop as I didn’t want it shading the summer sun from the beds.
I’m not really sure what I was thinking. The poor old thing was now on Thanet Sand, in between two giant sycamores. Trouble was, by now it was too late to move it again – every time I dig into that bank I fear I’m going to cause a landslide. I mulched it with some rocks I found on the plot, watered it when I remembered and left it to it.I just had to hope it would send down a tap root long enough to find some water somewhere.
And this year it has. After four years of sulking, Meeches has finally come of age. I have decent sized fruits, not quite ready yet (though I robbed one today to perfume some apple fruit pastilles I want to make) and at last I can begin not to feel quite so guilty.
I’m no Dutch Old Master but fruits like the quince just beg to be painted. Maybe when I have a great dish-full I will. In the meanwhile, even one quince, with its little furry jacket, is captivating to me.