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Behind the Bloom: Quince

Behind the Bloom: Quince

| Rosie Jeffares-Levitt

When playwright William Shakespeare asked the question, “What's in a name?” in Romeo and Juliet, he was saying that names don't really matter. All you need to know is what something is, not what it's named. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

I named my business after the elegant flowering quince. I love the graphic shape of the letter Q, the fact that quince is a one-syllable word, and that few know what quince is. I wanted my brand to speak for itself.

So let me tell you a bit about flowering quince. It's is a shrub in the rose family (Rosaceae) that can grow into a small tree. There are two main varieties. One has a brilliant orange-red flower, the other a soft pink. The former has spiny thorns. Settler cultures made living fences by planting quince to keep livestock from wandering. I wonder what sheep and cows made of the riot of brilliant colour in the spring!

Both varieties produce an appealing edible fruit called a pome with a fragrant, almost perfumed, green-yellow skin. Pomes are not quite round, have a curious grey fuzz, and are quite bitter if eaten raw. And they're as hard as a Bocce ball! But when cooked with sugar, they make great jams and preserves. Spanish Membrillo, a quince paste, when paired with Manchego cheese is a delicious treat.

At the shop, we force flowering branches for a stunning late winter display. Wild pickers sell us boughs when the buds are barely showing. Once inside, we cut the branches on an angle and place them in a sturdy vase with 3-6 inches of water.

You should try this at home! Every few days change the water and recut the stems. Once the flowers have faded, remove them and allow the tender green leaves to grow. In a word, gorgeous! – no matter what you call it.

• Rosie, owner Quince Flowers

Botanical Blog

Written By: Rosie Jeffares-Levitt

A collection of blog posts written by one of Toronto's top florists. With two on-going blog series, the first about flowers called Behind The Bloom & the second about plants called Plant Life.