Sunday, August 23, 2015

Things Are Getting Creepy

Things Are Getting Creepy

Ficus pumila, or creeping fig on a wall.
We have a large expanse of a south facing block wall.  We want to set up an espalier for fruit trees, but need to block out the reflective heat in the summer.

We had the problem: What is a fast growing, low profile, self adhering vertical climber that can tolerate acidic soil and is not toxic?  The answer ended up being Ficus pumila, or creeping fig!

How Creeping Fig Grows

Creeping fig can be grown as either a ground cover or a vertical cover.  The creeping fig grows
Ficus pumila, creeping fig fruit
vertically without support because it puts out aerial roots that grab onto the structure it is covering.

That is, until it reaches the limit of it's vertical potential.  When the creeper is done growing tall, it starts sprouting side shoots, which produce fruit.

Many sites will say that the ficus pumila fruit is toxic, but that is not true.  EatTheWeeds has an article that details the preparation and consumption of the creeping fig fruit.

The Plan

Espalier apple tree
Creeping fig can tolerate an acid soil, so it should do well with fruit trees we want to set up on an espalier.  We need to plant the vines when the weather finally cools down and the plants have a chance to cover the block wall before next summer.  Then we need to plant our trees for espalier in the fall when the prices are cheap and the trees are in dormancy.

Come spring, the trees should bloom, leaf out and grow to provide some shade for the creeping fig as the temperature rises.  In turn, the creeping fig reduces reflective heat during the blazing summers which should benefit the trees.

When the trees return to dormancy in the fall, the creeping fig will receive more sunshine in the cooler weather.  At least, that's the plan.  We're crossing our fingers!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

More Splits Happen

Ebenopsis ebano, Texas Ebony Seed Sprout

More Splits Happen In Our Yarden

We have a Texas Ebony started from seed back in 2012.  This idea came about because I saw the parent tree and just loved the color so much, I grabbed some seed pods.  The seeds were extracted from the pod and started with scarification (chipping or filing the external hard shell of the seed) then soaking for 24 hours.

It may have gotten started in January, then the upper left photo was taken in May, 2012.  Seed sprouting was a success!
Ebinopsis ebano, Texas Ebony Seed Pod

While the seeds of the tree are edible, I opted to sew them in soil to grow a little, slow growing and beautiful shade tree.

While one of the least attractive features of the Texas Ebony are the seed pods, the Texas ebony is quite desirable for bonsai due to the natural zig zag of the tree branches, the tiny leaves and the rich, dark fissured bark.

And the crackled, dark brown bark brings me to what the post is about.

Ebinopsis ebano, Texas Ebony
Young Tree Bark
Our Texas Ebony is now about 4 years old, probably 4' tall (typically grows 12" per year) and has started developing the crackling in the bark.  Not knowing this, I pulled some off to investigate the health of the underlayer and probably did a little damage in the process.

The cracks in the bark started developing shortly after shaping the tree and removing some low side branches.  This may have caused the trunk to thicken quickly.

However, the leaves are still the lovely bright green, there doesn't appear to be any unhealthy developments around the cracked bark, so we feel reasonably assured there are no real problems.

In the end, the tree should change from having the smooth, childish
Ebinopsis ebano, Texas Ebony
Mature Tree Bark
bark shown in the left image to the heavily textured and fissured adult bark shown in the right image.

The leaf combination along with the rich dark trunk coloring make for quite an attractive tree.

When full grown the tiny leaf canopy can provide a decent dappled shade for great cooling effect and will produce cream colored flowers with a heavenly sweet scent which is quite attractive to the honey bees.

The maximum growth for a Texas Ebony is 15 - 30' tall and wide.  This, of course, would be after 30 years of growth.  This tree is quite preferable to the regular fast sprawling manzanita or mesquite for controlled landscaping.