An English In Kentucky


















Monday February 25th 2019Tim Candler9


    Quince is clearly a boy plant and it has an interesting history for some of us Westerners. There are two kinds and much of the confusion follows on from the original determination by a western botanist that the plant he saw bearing fruit in Japan was in the Pear family. He called it Japanese Pear, but he was a botanist so he didn't want to be too obvious and used the Latin, Pyrus Japonica. In time an observation was made about the number of seeds in Quince fruit and suspicion was cast upon the assumption that even if the Quince fruit looked a little like a Pear, it probably wasn't a Pear. Botanists got rid of the whole Pear idea and called Quince Clydonia Japonica, which does sound a little like an infection of some kind. Then in the 1820's a botanist got really serious around Quince and he observed that the Quince blooms in some Quinces had a different arrangement of stamens and while the fruits on some Quinces were large and fairly attractive, other Quinces produced fruit that looked more shriveled up and disease ridden. By the late 1800's there were two kinds of Quince, the fruit bearing tree and the ornamental shrub. Of the two, the fruit bearing tree lost its association with Japan, it was called Clydonia Oblonga and the shrub was given the whole new name of Chaenomeles. The meles  part seems to be Latin for Badger. But more interesting Chaen Omeles seems to be an English language spelling of the Japanese for "Okay, Sorry!" Yet more good evidence of dastardly Botanic Humor around plants doomed to the role of unruly decorative accent.





   And you know how it is a for a jobbing gardener, when looking for work we do our bit to at least sound as though we know exactly what we're talking about, and it was a garden possibly in Oxfordshire when I took my early spring chance to impress by saying "Ah! What a beautiful Japonica." It was a fine Quince that had been trained to climb up a brick wall, it had obviously been around for a long time, its bloom was a touch spotty, but the arrangement of branches had much charm and I was basically fishing. "Japonica! That's not a Japonica!" It was the tone of my potential employer and I can still kind of see the moment. He'd obviously reached the "Get off my Lawn" phase of his life and someone calling his Clydonia Oblonga a Japonica was up there with straws and the Camel's back. Then he wilted a little, "I won't make marmalade anymore." It sounded tragic, but given the circumstance I didn't actually have the courage to ask why not. "You've been fine source of pectin," he stared at his Quince for a while before turning to me and with the quiet passion of a Viking berserker assured me, "I dislike Bullfinch."  My job was to remove his Quince, root and all, the brick wall needed repair. Either way, the more south facing of the two Okay Sorries where I live now is on the cliff edge of bloom, and this year Forsythia has either called it quits or is wisely taking less notice of the alarm clocks in day length which calls her into bloom very early March.


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