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Which Plants Spark Your Interest?

Posted Jan. 1, 2005

I grew up in East Texas, where annual rainfall is 40-plus inches and the growing season is 260 days. Many species of plants have an opportunity to flourish in this environment. One particular fruit I really enjoy is the pomegranate Punica granatum. The blooms are orange red in color, and the fruit itself has dark scarlet-red skin. It endures hot summers and is ready to harvest in late summer. It has an acidic taste if it's harvested too early. It was interesting to watch friends peeling off the skin, which exposed the compartments of multiple edible seeds. The tart-to-sweet flavor is different it's an acquired taste. Introduce this flavor to a young person, and you will get a real treat watching his or her facial expressions.

In my adventures as a young teenager, I found this plant, which grows 8 to 12 feet tall, in an elderly woman's landscape on Pine Street in Texarkana. She was not particularly happy with my observations of her landscape plant. I enjoyed collecting samples from the cascading growth to share with my young counterparts. Really, it was the method of collection that was in question, since I generally collected from a bicycle which I rode into her yard right up to the plant. I was then off to my friend's home down Pine Street to share my bounty. This was the older part of town, where one could smell the sweetest gardenias, honeysuckle vines and elaeagnus while cycling down the street.

I tell this story because it sparked my interest as a young horticulturist. Maybe you have plants that you often thought about and enjoyed as a youth and have an interest in them. To be horticulturally correct, one must be conscious of the plant zones in which a particular plant will grow. This information is printed on most plant identification labels. We are in USDA hardiness zone 7 (0 degrees to 10 degrees F). This is well in range for the pomegranate and a tremendous number of other edible fruit plants.

I have always recommended local and regional nurseries to supply appropriate plants. However, I recently attended a multi-state plant conference at the Oklahoma State University organized by Dr. Mike Schnelle. He invited a guest speaker from Washington state, Sam Benowitz, who owns Raintree Nursery. The nursery specializes in old and new fruit trees, berries and unusual edibles from around the world. Visit www.raintreenursery.com on the Web.

Special thanks to those NF Ag New and Views readers who made enlightened comments on my last article regarding the concrete pad that my dad allowed me, my two brothers, Fred and Charlie, and sister, Claire, to make foot and hand prints on (properly identified and dated 1961). These personalized concrete pads are family landmarks.

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