Seed Swaps

Pomegranate trees in Colonial Williamsburg

28 Nov 2008
Sunny 7°C / 45°F

As I mentioned in a previous journal, I spent the past week in Colonial Williamsburg celebrating Thanksgiving by being a tourist.

Out of everything I saw, my second favorite was these pomegranate trees (my first favorite was a Union graveyard in the middle of the Revolutionary War battlefield of Yorktown, where Cornwallis surrendered to Washington, but that’s not really garden-related).

These trees were growing in the garden of the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, a reproduction of what the palace was like when the last royal governor in Virginia, Lord Dunmore, lived there just before the American revolution. On our last day in Williamsburg, I walked through the palace gardens by myself. The shrubbery maze was fun, the flower beds (naked, except for what looked like Carex morrowii and some dry-grass mulch of some sort), and the canal was lovely, but what truly stopped me in my tracks were these trees.

When I first saw their multi-stemmed shape popping out of the ground like a cone (3rd picture), I thought “wow, ocatillos?” Ocatillo is a desert tree that looks like dead sticks in the winter and grows in a cone shape — but it seemed unlikely that ocatillos grew in Colonial Williamsburg. I stepped closer and noticed clumps of something in the trees (2nd picture) — and then it hit me that they were pomegranates.

Pomegranates! I had always thought that pomegranates were Mediterranean plants, totally unsuited to colder climates. But it turns out that fruiting pomegranates do quite well in zone 8 and higher. It appears that Williamsburg is zone 7. Zone 7!! I live in zone 7!! When the fruit ripens, it turns bright red and will hold on the tree for some time, until it suddenly burst open and spills seeds everywhere (1st picture).

After seeing the rest of the gardens, I pestered the poor docent working at the entrance to the palace gardens with questions — yes they did have pomegranates during the Colonial period, no he didn’t know where the originated (turns out it is the Mediterranean) or how they came to Virginia, no they don’t need special protection in winter although they do sometimes smudge them in spring to protect the buds them from late frosts, yes they took up a lot of space so only a rich person like the governor could have them, no he didn’t know if the Colonial nursery sold them (it didn’t), and no he didn’t know how old the trees were or at what age they had been planted in the garden.

Hrmmm. While I enjoyed the trip and Colonial Williamsburg, one frustration I had was that too many of the docents and recreators didn’t know the answers to questions that were a little bit complex. For example, when I asked a man portraying John Randolph if John Randolph had been born in England or Virginia, he didn’t know the answer. They were used to answering questions from children about how many of the guns were real and if the wigs itched and how come they didn’t wear long pants and to answering questions from parents about where the bathrooms were and how to rent Colonial costumes for their kids and if the pop-gun muskets had real flint locks (serious! I overheard that question more than once!). Anyway, I digress.

I’ve since done a bit of research and concluded that pomegranates are probably not for me — it’s a good thing the nursery didn’t sell the plants. In zone 7, young plants would need winter protection, which I’m not willing to provide. They also produce more fruit than I’m willing to deal with. I’ll go back to researching fig trees. But it was so cool to see actual pomegranate trees — I’m scheming now about how to get back there in spring to see them in bloom. I’ve heard pomegranate flowers are lovely.




Yay I am plotting & fantasising about fruit trees too, and pomegranate is very close to the top of my list. I’ve heard good things about it’s ability to adapt to container-growth, so it should make a portable tree, and I saw a really mature one in full bloom at a garden near mine just recently- it was absolutely stunning, easily the most decorative fruit tree I have ever beheld (and I include a cherry tree in full blossom in that pronouncement).

As regards the ‘too much fruit’ thing, if you container-grow it it will limit itself in size & harvest. I suppose it would be additional hassle to protect it from the winters. But oh I was really hoping the conclusion to this post was going to be “and now look at my new pomegranate tree!”. Oh well.

I’m also keen to try figs, since they are also apparently a good container-grown fruit tree. I’m guessing the varieties that would suit your area and my area would be very, very different. Will you be putting yours in-ground or container-growing? It seems like they can grow very big and produce enormous harvests in-ground.

Posted on 29 Nov 08 (over 9 years ago)


Folia Helper

United States7

Glittertrash, I hope you get a pomegranate tree so that I can watch it grow. I have limited space and don’t have room for a several trees in containers. I wish I did. The reason I’m concerned about “too much fruit” is that I think I would have trouble keeping up with it. In my 2-person household, we can only eat so many pomegranates!

I’m also thinking of planting two columnar apple trees in containers in my back yard. The simplified pruning (topping is all that is required) and controlled yields really appeal to me. I want those apple trees more than I want a pomegranate, so my limited space will go to them. :)

I’m specifically interested in figs because of their enormous yield, and because the fruit can dry on the tree, meaning that I wouldn’t have to keep up with the harvest in order to enjoy it all. I’ll be planting it in the ground, just as soon as I figure out where to put it. I have room for it in the front yard, but the design has got me stumped for the moment. The variety I’m looking at is called “hardy Chicago.”

Posted on 29 Nov 08 (over 9 years ago)

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Germantown, Maryland

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