The Show

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Wonderful Pomegranate Tree-Bird Back 40
Hello old friend. It's nice to see you again. It's been far too long since you last visited and I'm overjoyed to see that you're feeling well again. I was so worried last year when you came down with some strange sickness and just didn't seem to be your same old self. I'm glad to see that you've fought off the bad bug, whatever it was, and you're putting on a right fine show this spring. It's nice to see.

An experienced gardening eye will tell you that the picture above right is that of a pomegranate tree. Not just any pomegranate tree mind you, but the old standby that produces only the best, sweetest and tartest of ripe, red fruit. It's called, simply enough, Wonderful. And it's a good name. Because it fits like a glove. The Wonderful Pomegranate provides the most delectable and wonderful pomegranates on the planet. And it's putting on quite the colorful show in the Bird Back 40 side yard this gardening season.

Pomegranate Buds Preparing to Bloom
I must admit, I'm breathing a big sigh of relief while watching the tree do its thing this year. Because it wasn't doing this last year. Well -- let me explain. Half of the tree put on a nice show. The other half looked pretty darn terrible. And, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. But, count me concerned. And I had a reason to be.

It was about two years ago when a frustrated young lady contacted me via email out of the blue to ask, "where have all the pomegranates gone?" She went onto explain that all of the trees in her neighborhood that fed her pomegranate desires were barren, looked somewhat diseased and did I know of any trees around the City of Davis where she might help herself to her favorite fruit? This request caught me by surprise. Two years ago the Wonderful Pomegranate tree in the Bird Back 40 was covered with one of the largest crops it has ever produced.

A Color Show Like No Other
I remember telling this young lady that I didn't know of any diseases that were hitting backyard orchard pomegranate trees, and gave her a couple of locations to check out. I never did hear back from her, but clearly remembered her concerns last year when half of my once-healthy tree suddenly wilted during the spring bloom season, dropped quite a few leaves and didn't flower. That's right, not ONE single flower.

Color me very concerned. What was wrong with my Wonderful Pom? Had it been hit with some sort of funky disease or virus? A quick check of some online resources that I depend upon (UC Davis Fruit and Nut Information) yielded some answers -- but not the kind of problem I was experiencing. Further complicating matters were a few recent newspaper and industry reports detailing some strange disease that had struck without warning in commercial pomegranate fields. Nobody was quite sure what it was.

Emerging Pomegranates
Last year's harvest was one of the smallest I had ever encountered. Not only were the numbers curtailed, the size of the fruit was also affected. While the seeds inside the fruit that did mature were fine, the overall condition of the tree bothered me a great deal. Had I over-fertilized? Over-watered? Got a little too frisky with winter pruning efforts?

This year I adopted a "hands off" approach. While most fruit trees and vines get a small monthly allocation of fertilizer, the Wonderful Pom got nothing. The tree still received twice-weekly irrigation supplies from drip sprinklers at the base of the tree -- but not much else. I wanted to see the results of this "hands off" approach.

Honeybee At Work
Whatever was bothering the Wonderful Pom last year has, thankfully, moved on. Either that, or the tree fought it off. It is once again growing with a healthy vigor and this year's show of blooms is simply unrivaled. Although not all blooms turn into pomegranates, many of them are. And the tree continues to produce bloom buds at a surprising rate. I thought it would have eased up by now. Nope. It's showtime in the side yard and the Wonderful Pom is the star.

This is happy news, of course, to the legions of honeybees that have a home in the Bird Back 40 and elsewhere. It's not all that unusual to hear this tree buzz with excited honeybee activity. Although it's impossible to count them all, I wouldn't be surprised if that count amounted to the hundreds. Pomegranate pollen must be a prized commodity, given the honeybee activity that I've noticed day in and day out.

Wonderful Pomegranate Bloom
A heavy load of pomegranates means Bill and the wife that is Venus will be firing up a commercial brand juicer that can be found in many upscale (and some dive) bars -- especially those bars that specialize in serving drinks concocted from fresh fruits and vegetables. Pomegranates aren't easy to squeeze, but the reward is a fresh juice that is unlike any other. And from that simple juice, there are so many possibilities.

Pomegranate jelly anyone? Pomegranate punch? It's simply Wonderful. Here's looking at a healthy harvest come this fall and a healthy tree to boot.

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