Spring firecrackers

Every walk through this fabulous city brings new horticultural wonders to me. There are spring blooming shrubs and trees that I know from other places I have lived that I don’t see here. Or, then I do.

I have always loved the bright reddish-orange flowers on the flowering Japanese quince shrub. To me, they are the brightest star in the spring blooming universe. The blooms seems to say, “wake up! enough with the sweet shades of pink and white with plum and magnolia trees.”

Japanese flowering quince shrubs (Chaenomeles spp.) are a heritage ornamental plant with a brief, but memorably dramatic, floral display. Flowering quince plants light up the spring for a few weeks with a blaze of colorful blooms. This species is an old one, and has been cultivated in Asia for thousands of years. It was brought to Western Europe by plant collectors.

But, what thrills me in particular this year is that I saw this shrub growing, for the first time, around Florence. I am always surprised when I see old favorites for the first time in this climate. Of course they can and do grow here, but maybe because there is such a huge universe from which to choose plants, Italians don’t generally use the ones I happen to be familiar with. Or, maybe it’s a taste thing; maybe Italian taste in spring flowers is just different than mine. Who knows? I often wonder about this with lilac, one of my all-time favorites that you rarely see here.

But, for now, I’m just grateful to see the vibrant bloom of the quince!

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