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Hot Gardens Newsletter:  November 2004

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El Nino Yes. No. Maybe. The two big storms in October would seem to signal the beginning of an El Nino year with rainstorm after rainstorm drenching California and the Southwest. But according to scientists at JPL in Pasadena, the El Nino conditions in the Pacific are already beginning to fade. Satellite photos show that the ocean's surface temperature is cooling instead of continuing to warm up. Let's hope that the ocean's increased temperatures earlier this year were enough to give us more rain this winter.

Have your Hedge and Eat It Too. The Pomegranate (Punicaceae) is a rounded shrub that grows to about 8 feet tall, tolerates alkaline soil that would kill most plants and needs very little watering. In fact, about 2 years ago while we were hiking on an abandoned ranch in the high desert, we came across a hedge of old, utterly neglected pomegranate bushes -- and they were still bearing fruit.

The pomegranate has a growing reputation as an antioxidant and is a great addition to an edible landscape. The 'Wonderful', shown here, is one of the best varieties for hot, dry climates.

In fall the leaves turn a brilliant yellow, and, as we all know, the fruit looks like a Christmas tree ornament.
pomegranate fruit

Another Edible Hedge. Another shrub that makes for good looks and good eating is the Pineapple guava (Feijoa Sellowiana). You will often find this drought-tolerant, South American native in nurseries as a standard or small tree, but it can be grown as a multi-trunk shrub for an unusual and beautiful informal hedge. If left untrimmed, it can reach a height of 25 feet -- although we have never seen any that tall. Its soft gray-green leaves are silvery-white on the underside. Both the flower petals in the Spring and the fruit in the Fall are edible. The petals are a perfect addition to a tropical fruit salad! For more ideas about drought-tolerant hedge plants, visit our Hedges page.

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Trimming the Tree. (And we are not talking about shiny red balls on a lighted Christmas tree.) At this time of year many people decide to trim back or prune trees which have grown significantly over the summer months. Tree branches and limbs should be carefully and selectively thinned using only sharpened pruning tools.

If you are taking out an entire branch, the pruning cut should leave a branch collar of about an inch or so extending out from the trunk. This collar allows the cut to heal. Branches that are cut flat to the tree trunk leave the tree more liable to become diseased. And whatever you do, don't just whack off the top of a young tree. Let it grow to its natural shape.

Actually, we would advise you to use only a Certified Arborist to prune a tree that is more than five years old. Yes, Arborists are more expensive but we have seen far too many over-trimmed trees -- massacred by so-called "tree trimmers" who are armed with a chain saw and the mindset of a lumberjack. They don't have a clue about what they are doing. Trees are an important part of your property, increasing your home's value by thousands upon thousands of dollars, so it is definitely worth it to use only a licensed expert to trim them.

Go to our Newsletter for November 2005 or November 2003


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