The Rainsville Garden Club met for their first meeting of the new year on January 3, 2018. President Sue Shirey welcomed 16 members and thanked them for braving the cold temperatures to take down the Christmas decorations in front of the library and put them away for the next year.

The native plant study for the month of January was the shrub Asculus or Red Buckeye. The Buckeyes are very drought tolerant and make a beautiful addition to the shrub border. Hummingbirds are known to follow the blossoms north as they fly home from winter migration.

The program for the club members was on Pomegranates and presented by Ann Houston who is a Master Gardener. Pomegranates are among the oldest cultivated fruits. They are of the “Myrtle” family of plants and native to Central Asia and Persia. There are several references made to Pomegranates in the Bible. The name Pomegranate was derived from the Roman name Malum – Punicum, meaning “apple of Carthage”.

The pomegranate is experiencing a revival in popularity. In 1980, it was the 18th most popular fruit worldwide, today it is believed to be 12th. The increase in popularity is due in part to its newly discovered nutritional and anti-oxidant values. It is said to help prevent four types of cancer including colon and breast cancer. Drinking 1 to 2 ounces per day of fresh or frozen pomegranate juice can help to eradicate plaque from arteries.

Pomegranates prefer well drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.2; however, they will tolerate a pH of 4.5 to 8.2. They do best in full sun of at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sun per day. They thrive in acidic loam to rock strewn gravel and any soil in between.

Varieties must be cold tolerant to temperatures as low as -10 degrees to survive in our area. Pomegranates are usually considered a bush but can be pruned into a small tree. Most growers prefer to prune their bush to five or six main branches. To keep your pomegranate bush strong, you may remove all older branches each year and allow younger branches to take its place. Pomegranates have very few pests in our area and if there is a problem, you may wish to plant trap plants to attract beneficial insects. Pomegranates are self-fruiting and do not need a male plant nearby. A balanced organic fertilizer of 3-2-3 granulated and processed chicken manure is recommended. Pomegranates are pollinated by a variety of local insects, Hummingbirds are prime pollinators.

Fruit is born on lateral branches near the end of last year’s growth. Their blooming season lasts for over two months.

The blossoms are a deep orange-red and the foliage is glossy green. The leaves will remain on the bush in winter if the temperature doesn’t drop below 10 degrees. Plants can be easily propagated from cuttings that will bare fruit in three to four years.

A variety called “Wonderful” is recommended for this area. It is said that a pomegranate is known to live for 300 years with proper pruning techniques.

At the end of the program, each member was given fruit form the pomegranate to eat. It is noted that a plant with so many health benefits, landscape value and attract Hummingbirds is one that is worthy of a place in all gardens.

Rainsville Garden Club is a member of Northeast Al. Fed. of Garden Clubs, District II, The Garden Club of Al., Deep South Garden Clubs and National Garden Clubs, Inc.

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