A guide to choosing Quince and Medlar trees

Here are the most important things that you need to take into consideration when choosing quince and medlar trees:

Variety. Our quince varieties can be classified into two broad categories. Acid and sweet varieties. Acid varieties are the ones that most people will be familiar with. The fruit is usually quite hard and gritty in texture and quite acid in taste. As these break up quickly when cooked and set best, they are favoured for jelly making. Meeches Prolific is the best known variety of this type. Sweet varieties are less well known in this country. These have fine textured flesh which is quite sweet and palatable when eaten fresh. They keep their shape when cooked and are therefore best for making preserves and incorporating into dishes. Isfahan is the best known variety of this type. There are some good varieties like Ekmek which fall in between these two types. All of our medlars are suitable for jelly making. Not all varieties are good for eating fresh. The best variety for eating fresh is Iranian Medlar as it ripens earliest and has the softest, juiciest flavour.

Rootstock. Quince and medlar trees are grafted on rootstocks and the choice of rootstock is important because it determines the ultimate size to which your tree will grow. It is important to choose a rootstock suitable for the space you have and the way you wish to grow the tree. We use mainly quince rootstocks for both quince and medlar. When available we also use seedling medlar rootstock for medlar trees. Both quince and medlar trees have bushy, spreading growth habits. See how much space you have, imagine how you want the tree to look when it is a mature tree and decide on your choice of rootstock. Here are some guidelines for various common situations:
  • Small tree for small or medium sized garden. Dwarfing Quince C rootstock.
  • Medium to large size tree in a lawn or other grassed area. Semi-dwarfing Quince A or Mespilus (seedling medlar) rootstock.
  • Pots and planters. Both Quince A and Quince C rootstocks can be used. Restriction of the roots by the pot will keep the tree small. It is also best to start with one year maiden trees.
  • Special restricted forms. Dwarfing Quince C or Semi-dwarfing Quince A rootstock can be used for fan training quince trees depending on the eventual size of the fan required.
Tree Forms. Quince and medlar trees need minimal pruning with simply the aim of producing a good shaped head and preventing overcrowding of the canopy. You need to consider what you wish your tree to look like once mature and buy a tree suitable for that form. We supply untrained one year old trees known as maidens which can be trained into any suitable form. We also supply two year old trees which we have already started training towards a particular classic form. If you want to order a two year old tree ensure that it is in a form that suits your purpose. You would normally not be able to re-train a two year old tree into another form. Here are some guidelines about the various tree forms:
  • Bush trained trees. Open centre goblet shaped trees with relatively short clear trunks of 3ft/1m normally on dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstocks suitable for small gardens.
  • Half standard trees. Open centre goblet shaped trees with medium length clear trunks of 4ft/1.3m in height normally on semi-dwarfing rootstocks suitable for medium sized, large gardens or paddocks.
  • Restricted forms. These are intended for growing against walls and fences. They are both a way of growing fruit in a restricted area and an attractive decorative feature. We only supply a small range of fan trained quince trees on semi-dwarfing rootstock. As tip bearers quince and medlar trees are not very suitable for espalier or cordon training.
Cropping season. Quince fruit is ready to be picked when it starts to turn yellow in October. It should not be left too long on the tree as the flesh can start to turn brown from the middle. Medlars ripen from early November onwards. It is best to pick them from the tree while the flesh is still hard and allow them to ripen indoors.

Spring blossom and autumn colour. Both produce blossom in late spring after the leaves have fully opened. Quince trees have attractive large blossom in late May which is white with a hint of pink. Medlars have large white star shaped blossom even later than quince trees. Medlars also have spectacular red and gold autumn colour.

Pollination. All quince and medlar trees are self-fertile which can be grown successfully on their own.