There has been a storm brewing in North Carolina and it is one that will prove to beautify our landscapes across the country. The Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Mills River N.C. already horticultural heroes of sorts with their incredible white flowered Sweet Tea Mountain Gordlinia are now bringing the landscape the Double Take Storm flowering quinces with the most shocking blooms you ever imagined.

The three selections are Scarlet Storm, Pink Storm, and Orange Storm. They are all double flowered and look similar to camellia.

Botanically speaking, they are all selections of Chaenomeles speciosa which is native to China. It is the breeding at North Carolina State however that is bringing us these shrubs that will reach approximately 6-feet tall and 4-feet wide at maturity, boasting dazzling double flowers with huge petal counts.

The old fashioned flowering quince always seems to be bare of flowers on the tips or tops of the plant but these blooms that reach up to 2½ inches in diameter stretch outward to the tip of the stem. That means the blossoms are almost as large as a tennis ball. Here at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden, they have been sensational. They are cold hardy from zones 5-9 and deer resistant.

Plant your selection in a site in full to part sun. These great flowering quinces deserve to be planted in a well-prepared shrub bed. Incorporate 3- to 4- inches organic matter along with about two pounds of a 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area. Till your soil deeply and dig your hole about three times as wide as the rootball but no deeper. Place the flowering quince in the hole and backfill to two-thirds. Tamp the soil and water to settle. Add the remaining backfill and repeat the process to get all of the air pockets out and provide a great start for acclimatization of your new shrub.

These plants bloom on old wood so remember not to over do it when pruning when they are in their deciduous or dormant state of winter. If any pruning is needed make these cuts after the spring bloom. Of course, these make breathtaking cut flowers, so select as needed.

These blooms sequence nicely with spring blooming bulbs like Dutch iris, daffodils, and the iridescent blue of the Peruvian lily, Scilla peruviana which is cold hardy to around zero. Try clustering three in front of evergreen hollies. Our Chinese snowball viburnums and Scarlet Storm are blooming, however, they are in different parts of the garden.

To me, the flowering quince has always been that harbinger of spring. It’s the one plant that shouts with its colorful blooms, “You Have Survived Winter!” Even though I loved those old blooms they pale in comparison to a plant like Scarlet Storm. Spring is early in the South so gardeners here may want to start shopping. Elsewhere in the country, you can procrastinate a little, or better yet go ahead and let your favorite nurseryman know you are coming soon to pick up three.

Norman Winter is director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him at: @CGBGgardenguru.

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