Friday, March 16, 2007

Medlars Mesplius germanica

Many years ago we visited The Cloisters, which house the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of art and architecture from medieval Europe. There's a courtyard garden there with lovely small trees. We asked one of the gardeners what they were and he replied 'quinces'.

When we moved to our present home from a townhouse, we finally had enough room to plant trees. I immediately thought of the 'quince' the gardener mentioned. After looking through several catalogs, I decided to buy the biggest fruited and leaved plant of Cydonia oblonga the quince. They didn't quite look like the trees at the Cloisters but I was hoping it was only because of the way the photos were taken. Well wishing or hoping doesn't make it so. Here's a nice picture of a quince.

The quince was absolutely not the tree at the Cloisters. Further, even if the description of the plants in the catalog said they were pest free, that was absolutely not the case. Aphids attacked the early tender leaves and powdery mildew stunted the tree.

A couple of months ago while searching for other trees on online nurseries, I spotted a tree that looked like the ones at the Cloister. Medlar. Mespilus germanica. I excitedly did a Google image search and was even more convinced that this was indeed the long sought after tree. My suspicions were confirmed by a post a few weeks ago on the Gardenweb forums when someone posted that they had a brochure about the courtyard garden of The Cloisters, mentioning the Medlar trees planted there. Aha! Apparently most people plant the tree for its fruit and it's sold as such, the fruit which then has to be bletted-fruit picked and left to ripen until soft and sort of fermented. Another fruit that needs to be bletted is the persimmon which would be too astringent to eat otherwise. Many people were so disappointed with the fruit that they wanted to get rid of the tree. Interesting that they don't look at the tree as an ornamental, a way it is obviously used at The Cloisters. To the credit of the gardener at the Cloisters, the Medlar is related to the quince. He may have been confused by the quince-like look of the tree.

I immediately ordered one from Edible Landscaping and I am eagerly awaiting its delivery in April. Raintree Nursery also has them but I bought from Edible Landscaping because they are closer to me, shipping from Virginia instead of the West coast. Raintree does have more varieties though. Finally the long search is over.

Here's a photo of some primroses waiting to be planted that we picked up very cheaply at a supermarket . We usually buy primroses to add some color in the house. A couple of years ago when they stopped blooming, we thought, what the heck why don't we plant them outside, maybe it will bloom again before the winter. Well they didn't bloom again and we thought the plants were dead when winter arrived but in spring we were greeted with colorful flowers once again. So now we enjoy the flowers in the house and again outside in spring. The plants originally planted about 3 years ago are still alive. These are just the common primroses sold everywhere in the spring.


Blogger Digital Flower Pictures said...

Well you have inspired me to visit the Cloisters Garden this year. I have visited the buildings several times and loved them. I’ll take a look at those trees. Good trick on the Primrose, it is one of the few hardy plants you get at the florist. I sometimes get them for one or two dollars each.

5:47 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi dfp,
Do visit The Cloisters and please take pictures of the Medlars. As I mentioned we were there a number of years ago so I would be interested to see how they've grown. We bought the primroses for $1.49 each at the grocery store. HomeDepot and Lowes were selling them earlier for $2.99 or more so luckily we didn't buy them at that time.

6:02 AM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Seeing the Cloisters has been on my wishlist for years, Ki.

If you can get a copy of Through the Garden Gate, a collection of Elizabeth Lawrence's newspaper columns, one of the entries is about medlars, and how much she regretted leaving her tree behind when she moved from Raleigh.

Primroses used to do that for me once in awhile in Illinois after I learned to plant them in the shelter of a needled evergreen.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

7:39 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Annie,
For some unknown reason I always thought that nothing grew under 'needled evergreen'(s). I don't know the source of this misinformation but it's kept me from planting under the trees. Thanks for disabusing me of this idea. I will definitely look up the medlar article in Through the Garden Gate. Thanks very much for the tip.

A trip to The Cloisters is definitely worth the effort if you're in the area. I don't know if that would be the case if you had to fly in from Austin ;)

10:07 AM  
Anonymous The County Clerk said...

I read and I learn. Bletted. I'd never come across that word OR CONCEPT before. wow.

And what a total drag about the quest for the tree.

Excellent post. Enjoyed it immensely.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

The county clerk,
I too have not seen or heard the word bletted before. I only stumbled upon it when searching for information on Medlars.

Another word I stumbled upon while doing some research for a blog is marcescent, leaves which die in fall but remain attached to the plant.

Somehow the long quest for the tree makes finding it all the sweeter.

Still the fiasco with the quinces was a huge disappointment.

I reread the blog and was horrified that it was so badly written. In my defense, I write in a stream of consciousness and put it down hurriedly as I form my thoughts. I really have to take time to read and rewrite before I publish a blog.

Thanks for stopping by I hope the gist of the article was passed on.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

I was just going to say that I've learned two new words here in the past month: bletted and marcescent. Thanks for another great post, Ki. :)

7:22 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kim, I'm learning as I go too. I'll keep passing on the new words as I find them. I guess botany has very specific words which describe the unique qualities of plants as much as medicine has essentially their own language.

6:55 PM  

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