Smith County Master GardenersTexas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Columns written by Greg Grant and a Smith Co. Master Gardener which appear each Sunday on the Gardening page in the Tyler MorningTelegraph, are posted here.
Asian persimmon trees are great ornamental trees that bear tasty fruit
By Greg Grant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service –
Asian persimmons (Diospyros kaki) are eye-popping small ornamental trees. They have wonderful yellow and orange fall color and produce copious quantities of large orange fruit that hang on the tree until winter. Though not common here, they have been cultivated in Texas for over a hundred years and in Asia for thousands of years. They can be eaten fresh, dried or made into breads, cakes and puddings. Luckily, they are very easy to grow, require little pruning and can be produced completely organically with almost no insect or disease problems. Though many astringent types will pucker your mouth before they are completely soft and ripe, the non-astringent types can be eaten when they are crisp and firm, like an apple. Those are my favorites.
Asian persimmons are available as both bare root and containerized plants. When planting bare root persimmons, it is absolutely a must that you plant them when they are dormant (leafless) during the winter. Containerized plants can be planted year-round, as long as moisture is available, with fall being the best time, winter second best, spring third best and summer the worst. They should be spaced 10 to 20 feet apart.
Asian persimmons require full sun of at least eight hours a day to produce well. They can be grown in most any soils, but prefer those that are well drained. Asian persimmons can grow in acid or moderately alkaline soils.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the tree’s root ball and as deep as the roots or pot it was in. Water the root ball in the hole and then back fill the hole with the native soil. Make sure not to plant the tree too deep or it will die. Create a circular berm around the tree that acts as a catch basin and water the tree thoroughly. Then water once a week during June, July and August the first summer. A 3-inch layer of organic mulch or pine straw around the tree will help conserve water and prevent weeds.
Although they will ripen off the tree, persimmons should be left on the tree until they are full sized, soft and fully colored, generally around the first frost. If they are not ripe, they will be very astringent and pucker your mouth. Fuyu can be harvested when it is firm and crisp, as it is a non-astringent variety. Persimmons generally stay edible and hang on the tree until midwinter.
They are self fruitful. However, fruit set and retention is often better when cross pollinated by another variety. Seedless fruit can only occur without cross pollination or by only having a single variety. Recommended varieties for Texas include Eureka, Fuyu (seedless, non-astringent), Hachiya (seedless), Tamopan and Tane-nashi (seedless). Fuyu is my favorite and can be eaten when it’s still firm. My Uncle Noel loves them all.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of “Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” “Heirloom Gardening in the South” and “The Rose Rustlers.” You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (tex asgardener.com) or follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens.” More science- and research-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.
Black gum tree is a fall beauty
By Shelia Preddy, Smith County Master Gardeners –
As the cooler temperatures of fall arrive, color seems to shift from ground level upward into the midrange shrubs and trees. Browns, tans, soft reds and yellows begin to appear in the foliage of the dogwoods, redbuds and crape myrtles. The Japanese maples begin their morph into full color. Flowers appear in the camellia sasanquas. High above this layer of soft color, bright jewels of red brighten the already yellow-orange upper treescape as the gum trees really begin to show off.
There are two common types of gum tree in East Texas: sweetgum and black gum. We all know and love the colors of the sweetgum, but not so much the gum balls that litter the ground beneath this beautiful tree in the fall. Enter Nyssa sylvatica var. sylvatica Cornaceae — the black gum. To some, its color may even exceed that of the sweetgum.
The black gum, also known as black Tupelo or sourgum, is native to East Texas’ moist well-drained soils. A deep taproot provides it with water in drier areas but makes it difficult to transplant. That may be a reason that it is hard to find in nurseries. It is considered a slow-growing medium to large tree, reaching a potential 100 or more feet in height with a straight trunk of up to 3 feet in diameter. Many horizontal branches form a narrow, oval crown.
On younger trees, the bark is smooth and gray, developing furrows and flat ridges as the tree ages. Older bark turns darker gray to brown or black and is broken into thick, distinctly squarish blocks.
Male and female flowers appear on separate trees or on the same tree as long, slender clusters. The male has many-flowered heads, the female several-flowered clusters. In the spring a small drupe of bluish-black berries, each containing one seed, develops from the female blossom.
The leaves are simple with smooth edges. They are alternate and ovate in shape, dark green on top, but a paler green on the underside. In early fall the deciduous black gum prepares to drop its leaves. The shiny, dark green leaves turn brilliant red, yellow, orange and purple. In fact, it seems to glow against the sky when the sunlight shines through its multicolor leaves.
If you are looking for a spectacular fall color tree for your landscape, consider the consistent, easy care, native black gum.
The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.