For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
Saturday, September 24, 2005
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Conservation Director, and Horticulturist “Xeriscape Fruits”
There are several fruit species that produce their fruit in the fall and are tough enough to be considered xeriscape plants. They will survive without supplemental irrigation. Water them deeply twice per month in the summer, however, and they will produce more fruit. Consider pears, oriental persimmons, and pomegranate for your landscape.
The limiting factor on pears is a susceptibility to fire blight. Most varieties succumb to the disease after one or two bloom periods in our climate. Bartlett is one of the most susceptible selections so even if it is your favorite pear do not buy it for use in San Antonio. The easiest varieties to grow are Kieffer, Orient, and Warren.
Kieffer produces large hard pears that have a coarse texture. One tree will fill two bushel baskets full of fruit every year. Kieffer is most useful as a cooking pear. Orient has a smoother texture and an even larger pear, but is not as prolific. My favorite pear for San Antonio is Warren. The fruit is small and not very uniform, but the taste is dessert quality. Kieffer is not the easiest pear tree to find. To find a Warren, try your favorite nursery first, but you may have to go on the internet. Pears grow to 20 feet and make compact upright trees that are attractive in the landscape. Grow them in full sun.
Oriental persimmons are even more attractive trees than pears. There are disciplined growers with horizontal branching and an open look. When they are loaded with red or orange fruit, they are very showy. There are a number of selections from which to choose. The Hachiya has acorn shaped fruit on a vigorous spreading tree. Fall foliage color is good. Like most persimmon varieties the fruit is astringent and can only be eaten when it is mushy ripe. Fuyu is the least astringent persimmon. It has a flattened tomato shaped fruit on a rounded compact tree. Grow persimmons in full sun.
Pomegranites are tasty and nutritious if you have the patience to work through the tough outer coating and inner walls. Pomegranites grow to 15 or 16 feet tall in some situations. They are tough plants that can survive the droughtiest summers and are not bothered by insects or diseases. In my neighborhood, naturalized plants survive the deer despite browsing during droughty periods. The large shrubs become very deuse with many stems formed from the base and thick foliage. Pomegranites are deciduous. In addition to the attraction of the fruit, pomegranates produce a spectacular orange red bloom in early summer. There are, in fact, several dwarf selections marketed for bloom alone. The dwarf selections can be useful for South Texas landscapes, but are not as drought tolerant as the standard size plants.
The fruit of the most recommended variety, “Wonderful,” is the size of a large apple and has a russet red color that makes you think of apples when the plant is seen from a distance.
Inside the hard skin are the jell encased seeds that are arranged in quarters separated by further hard walls. The jell coating the seeds is tart, sweet and flavorful. With the hard shell you would think the fruit is bird proof, but it is not so.
The birds work at pecking a hole in the skin and eventually open it up. Over a period of 3-4 weeks, the birds with the help of leaf footed bugs and other insects hollow out the fruit. At the end of their feeding efforts, the empty shell resembles and weighs the same as a Christmas tree bulb.
Every year KSTX radio works with San Antonio Parks, SAWS and other entities to complete planting projects. Join us on October 1, 2005, from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon to plant the wetlands and xeriscape at Comanche Outlook (Nacogdoches and Judson). Bring your boots and a shovel.
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