Botanical Buzz | Chaenomeles brighten up the winter months

FLORAL FIRE: The Chaenomeles speciosa (Flowering Quince, Japonica) in the Japanese Gardens at Elizabeth Park. Photo: CONTRIBUTED
FLORAL FIRE: The Chaenomeles speciosa (Flowering Quince, Japonica) in the Japanese Gardens at Elizabeth Park. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

I was driving up to the gardens (Elizabeth Park), trying to think what had kept our display interesting this last winter. You know yourself how bare a garden can look with grey skies, chilly mornings, bare branches, and stiff breezes. In the bush garden our local wattles hold the Alamo-fort with glorious sun-yellow colour against gathering Mexican armies with winter pennants unfurled in shivering winds. But were we holding out at the Japanese Gardens?

I don’t know why I thought of John Wayne and the small garrison in their last stand against the Mexican army at the Alamo? Davy Crocket wasn’t it, with a coon cap and tail over his shoulders as he powdered-up his long-barrelled musket from a horn case?

For some reason I perceive blue-coated, white-banded Mexican ranks as a symbol of winter misery and menace. I know I got frozen-through this last cold season. While others bemoaned the flu, I knew my chesty cough and headaches were a legacy of lazy winds shooting me at point-blank range as thoroughly as though I’d been targeted by a ball and shot. It is said such a wound could leave a hole as wide as Texas, and then the shivers set in.

Maybe it was because I was playing ‘Spanish Flea’ on my car disc; the Mexican theme played by Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass band from the 1960s.

All those trumpets skipping their tune along in unison. And what do you think I saw as I stepped into the gardens?

Too-righty! As sharp as a 21-gun salute, the Japonicas! First thing as you enter, you’re rallied by a thick floral display of Chaenomeles speciosa (Flowering Quince), in the rose family. They keep it going in early spring also.

Even though they hail from China and Japan they do Dubbo very nicely, these shrubs grow up to three metres high with equal spread. I reckon the botanic name sounds very Mexican myself. ‘Chaino’ for green, and ‘Meles’ for split fruit.

Yeah, sounds very Mexican to me. Chaino-meles could even be compared to a cavalry coming to save the day. Perhaps to describe how the Mexican army got split apart and … What?