Tuesday, March 08, 2011


It must be spring, because suddenly I'm obsessing over plants and stuff, particularly those of a fruiting inclination. As I've mentioned before, I've been busily grafting new scions onto my pear trees, and some of the earliest grafts from February are starting bud break, so that would indicate the grafts are indeed taking (as opposed to dying). Encouraged by this, I do believe next year I will attempt grafts on the peach tree and the plums.

But that's not what I did last night. The kind fellow who sent me those Acres Home and Tennousi pear cuttings also was generous enough to send along some pomegranate cuttings as well. I'm not sure if I've ever related this story before, but pomegranates were among the first--if not the first--plants I put in the ground when we moved to New Braunfels. I went to a local nursery with a sterling reputation for my poms, and got burned. Bad. Turns out the nursery had recently been sold and immediately took a turn for the worse. The person helping me sold me what was supposedly "Wonderful" pomegranates, which is the most common commercial cultivar. He also insisted I needed two for pollination, otherwise they wouldn't fruit. The moron was wrong on both counts, either out of ignorance or greed, I don't know. Being new to the gardening thing, I deferred to his advice, and only later discovered pomegranates are self-fertile. I also learned, to my chagrin, that neither pom was of the "Wonderful" type. One fruited all right, but is a white-fleshed variety that is quite tart and nearly impossible to tell when is actually ripe (since the arils/seeds inside don't turn red). Plus, the fruit seems susceptible to a black, scab-like mold or somesuch which is quite unattractive. That's still better than the other plant, which turned out to be a double-flowered, non-fruiting variety. And the double-flowers don't ever seem to open entirely, so the ornamental value is diminished. Personally, I suspect these were both grown from seed--perhaps originally from a "Wonderful" plant, perhaps not. But since pomegranates don't come true from seed, I'm stuck with the luck of the draw.

I have more faith in these cuttings, though, since they come from fruit-obsessed home gardeners. I got six cuttings of the cultivar "Mae" started last night, with six more needing attention. And there's a dozen cuttings of the cultivar "Cloud" needing attention, too. Here's what I've found online about these types:
Mae is a University of California-Davis release. This heavy bearing clone was rated tops in taste. It bears medium to large fruit having a sweet, tangy, red flesh and yielding a sweet-sour, rich red juice.

Cloud is a release from the University of California-Davis pomegranate collection. It bears medium to large fruit that are pale pink on the outside with a golden yellow blush. The flesh is a glistening, very pale, whitish salmon pink and has a mild, sweet taste.
I abraded the bottom end of each 12" scion, wetted it, then dipped it in Rootone powdered rooting hormone. The plant then went into the rooting container, which consists of a 20 oz. plastic soda bottle with the top cut off and holes punched in the bottom. Inside was filled with a 50/50 mix of peat moss and pearlite. The whole affair was thoroughly watered down and put in my office window. Pomegranates are reputed to be very easy to root from cuttings, so much so that some folks just stick the scions straight into the ground where they want the plant to grow and leave it at that. I'm not quite so confident, so I'm using the method I've had success with before for grape hardwood cuttings.

The downside is that I don't really have anyplace to put the new plants, assuming I do get them to root. Even with a 50 percent failure rate, I'd still have a dozen pomegranates on my hands. I expect I'll take several to Columbus for my mom's house, since they'll make an attractive ornamental that needs pretty much no care at all. And I'll take some to Bastrop for my mother-in-law, who has lots of space where pomegranates could happily grow. And I'd keep at least a few for myself and attempt to container grow, at least until the winter when they go dormant, so I can attempt to graft some of these improved cultivars on the disappointing plants currently growing in my yard. Both of the existing plants are quite mature, and I have no desire to go through the trouble of chopping them down and removing them in favor of a tiny, undeveloped cutting. No, grafting's the only way to go.

And to think, until a little over a month ago, I'd never grafted a single plant. Now I'm grafting everything.

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