Q: My neighbor has a shrub growing in the corner of the front yard that is just now putting out flowers. She doesn’t know what it is, but we’re both curious. The flowers are a coral-pink color, simple flower. Five petals with yellow feathery stuff in the center. The flowers remind me of apple blooms, but I’ve never seen an “apple bush”! Any idea what this shrub might be? – Mc.K. N., Albuquerque
A: From the description of the bloom alone I am confident that the shrub you’re admiring is a flowering quince. These cheery shrubs are one of the first bloomers in these parts, flowering early along with the yellow blooms of the winter jasmine you can see around town now. The quince usually beats the forsythia and the lilac in the race to bloom first in the springtime.
You’re correct that the blossoms look rather like apple flowers, and that’s because they are in the same family botanically. I’m not sure why, but they aren’t planted a lot in these parts. It might be because they are thorny, so you should be cautious when you’re working around a flowering quince. But if you are looking for an easy-to-grow “barrier” type of plant, this quince could be just the ticket.
I have seen quinces that look, pardon me, “crappy,” but that’s because they are usually pruned incorrectly. If you want to control a quince, you should cut out a couple, up to four, of the older trunks internal to the bush, annually, creating better air circulation. Just “hedging” or keeping the shrub blunted will make it grow “wonky,” keeping the internal trunks and stems bare and making all of the leaf pop out only on the outer edges.