The Tale of Two Lemon Trees


Yes, I know it’s three chapters, but they’re short, and sweet, like the blossom on a lemon tree.

Chapter One

When we first bought our house, there was an ancient lemon tree growing in the back yard.  The lemons were as big as small grapefruits, but alas never juicy. We enjoyed the tree for its beauty and used the lemons for other things.

The sweet smell of citrus blossoms is crisp and inviting.  A tree laden with bright yellow fruit brought cheer to the garden year round. One year I found a nest in the dense foliage of the tree which confirmed what a special tree it was.  There was, however, one challenge.  The trunk of the tree was low to the ground. At knee-height, the lemon tree forked into two large branches.  The weight of the fruit started pulling the branches apart.  After wrapping the tree with rope, we called an arborist.  They suggested keeping the fruit to a minimum to reduce the weight and to harvest as often as we could.

lemon tree party

Garden birthday party, 2003

It was all for not.  I arrived home one afternoon to find the tree split in two.  Part of it was standing, but the rest lay sprawled across the lawn.  I was so grateful that my children weren’t playing in the yard at the time.  Once I knew the cats were also safe I was able to relax. I knew they weren’t trapped under the limbs of the fallen tree.

The tree had to go.

With the tree gone, we realized how much we enjoyed the extra light and the space to plant sun-worshiping vegetables.  We bought a dwarf lemon instead and put it in a pot on the front deck.

Chapter Two

Dwarf lemon trees produce full-sized fruit on a smaller tree. My mom had good luck growing a potted lemon tree, so I reasoned we could too. For whatever reason our Myer lemon didn’t take off.

We moved our dwarf lemon to the front, side yard and hoped it would get plenty of sun.

lemon tree 2011

Dwarf Myer Lemon Newly transplanted, 2011

dwarf lemon in side yard

Dwarf Myer Lemon today April, 2014

That first year the tree doubled in size but didn’t produce any fruit.  It increased in size again but got hit with a hard frost and  decided to sit it out for another year.  Last year the tree sent out thorns.  Surely fruit would follow.  By early fall, a fungus or some kind of pest, deformed all the new growth, wrapping it in a light powder.

What is a gardener to do?  I pulled out the shears, and removed the damage, taking a little extra for good measure.  Winter came (sort of) followed in typical fashion by spring.

Chapter Three

It’s spring!  The birds are singing, the bulbs are popping and we finally got a bit of rain.  Could this be the banner year for our little lemon tree? A recent trip to the side yard renewed my hope.  A single flower bud, fresh from the rain sent out a cheerful welcome.  New growth covered the tree and not a single pest in sight.

lemon buds

Lemon tree buds

A couple of rainy days later and all was right with the world.  Tiny flower buds cover the tree. Sweet, pink, intoxicating, might-one-day-be-a-lemon buds.

lemon tree flowers

Lemon tree flower and buds

To be continued…


When life gives you lemons…

  • Collect them in a large bowl for a pretty display. Your entire house will smell like citrus.
  • Lemon juice and salt are great for cleaning copper.
  • Grinding a chopped lemon with some ice freshens the sink and the garbage disposal.
  • Use lemon juice instead of bleach to remove stains. Soak your delicate clothing in a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda for at least half an hour before washing. We did this with costumes in my theater days, so we didn’t harm the delicate fabric.

41 thoughts on “The Tale of Two Lemon Trees

  1. I’ve had all sorts of trouble with my Meyer lemon tree. They seem to attract problems! But they have the most beautiful lemons of them all! Good luck with yours, looking forward to the next exciting instalment of your lovely story.


  2. I, too, have always had trouble growing lemons, Alys. In fact, all citrus seems to struggle in The Oasis Out The Front Door. I’m not sure if it’s the heavy frosts we have for about a month in Winter, or the often erratic rainfall, perhaps pests, disease? Not sure! So I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that your lovely tree will finally fruit this year. My Grandmother couldn’t give lemons away fast enough from her tree in the backyard. It was so prolific. So many years later when I had my own garden I assumed that growing lemons was a cinch!! How wrong I was. But we gardeners are nothing if not persistent – so I won’t give up! I love lemons! You have told a colourful story so beautifully here. Thank-you for sharing it. Also, thank-you so much for the “lemon tips.” I have a heap of copper here to clean so I will be trying lemon juice and salt! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox


    • Hi Dani,

      Thanks for sharing your own experiences with lemon trees. Isn’t that interesting? Apparently they are sensitive little trees. Since the one we had seemed to thrive on neglect and pump out fruit year round, I didn’t give it a passing thought.

      We had a week of frost in November (almost unheard of here) and it damaged the commercially grown orange crops. It didn’t prevent fruit, but they froze then thawed, taking a lot of juice with them. The price of an orange straight to market is apparently ten times more, so all those oranges going for juice will really hit the bottom line.

      After that frost, we’ve had a warm dry winter, so I wonder if that is the variable. We may never know.

      You are so right: we gardeners are persistent. We’ll figure this out, Dani.

      The lemon and salt is fun to work with. It really does a good job. xoxoxox


  3. I have always wanted to grow a lemon tree, but never got around to it. Your tree is beautiful and I can’t wait for your next chapter – as you are keeping me hangin! I also wanted to head to the grocery store one day and pick up one of each fruit and plant the seeds to see if anything would grow. That would be interesting! ❤


  4. We also have a lemon tree. It is in a pot, but I suspect the tap root has come out the drainage hole and worked down deep into the soil. It is the passion of my Fella. He is not at all interested in gardening, but looks on the lemon tree as his special project. He fusses about with gall wasp traps and watering. Despite all the attention our lemons are small! Meanwhile the cumquat tree, also in a pot, and which relies on me, flourishes!


  5. I keep half a lemon in the fridge, it stops bad smells between cleanings. Also, if you add lemon juice to the water/detergent mix you use for cleaning your windows, you’ll have no/fewer streaks. My OH’s grandmother says that a good housewife always has lemons in her kitchen!
    No lemon trees in my garden but I went on holiday once to Sorrento in Italy, there were lemons everywhere, it was beautiful. We even found a restaurant which had a huge covered terrace, covered with lemon trees trailing on the trellis. Wonderful smell!


    • That’s a great idea. I’m amazed at the uses for one simple fruit. I knew vinegar helped prevent streaking, but I didn’t know about lemons. They smell so much better, don’t they?

      I’ve never been to Italy, but hope to go one day. My husband’s family is originally from there, though most of them immigrated to Argentina during the second war.


  6. Is that a magic act in your garden? What an amazing Birthday Party! Your Lemon tree mishap seemed to be a blessing in disguise. I think Lemons and Oranges in your very own yard is amazing. Our new house has a garburator and I’ll have to remember that tip. When you soak delicates in Lemon Juice and Baking Soda, do you fill the sink with water first? Good luck with your cute little lemon tree this year, sounds like it’s endured all types of mayhem so you have a hardy little bloke there. xoK


  7. Pingback: Living Scrapbook: My Little Side Yard Garden | Gardening Nirvana

  8. Fabulous post! I like the chapters and the hopeful ending too!

    I once shared my life with an old established lemon tree that flowered and fruited prolifically. When I left that place I assumed I would be able to grow another lemon tree easily. As we all know that word just makes an ‘ass of u and me’ and in many different gardens for varying amounts of time my attempts have all been in vain. I must have given up for I haven’t tried here. I am therefore doing a small happy dance in a hopeful attitude that by the end of this year you will have so many lemons you will be able to have a lemonade block party!


    • Thanks so much for that. I’m intrigued by the number of comments on this post with regard to the challenges of growing lemons. Apparently the are quite particular about the circumstances under which they grow.

      This past winter was the warmest on record!!! It was also one of the driest. Go figure? I’ll be sure to update you when the lemons arrive (she says with great optimism). 🙂 Lemonade sounds wonderful.

      Just like you.


  9. I’m obviously behind…again. My last husband had a lemon tree in the back yard in Burbank. Loved it and really miss it. I have a silly question when it comes to the health of our plants these days. Someone suggested that the water coming from the tap and hose has so much chlorine in it that I should let the water sit out for 24 hours before watering my plants. Could that have any effect on our trees? Is this even a thing to be thought about? As a real gardener, I thought you might know. I’ve heard Meyer lemons are supposed to be the best. One of these days, I’d like to try my hand at making some Lemoncello with organic lemons. Yum.


    • Good morning, Marlene.

      Lemon trees seem to resonate with everyone. They’re amazing trees, but like many things, have a temperament of their own.

      I used to try to let my water sit before watering indoor plants, as I too heard about the chlorine in the water. Then I realized that all the landscaping received the same water and seemed to be doing just fine. I guess you could experiment by purchasing two new plants, placing them side by side, then watering one with tap water and the other with settled water.

      Thank you for calling me a ‘real gardener’. That really made me chuckle. You’re a real gardener too.

      I don’t know what Lemoncello is. I must go look that up.

      Oh…is it the liquor?


  10. Hi Alys. When I was a kid I was in a plum tree with a friend when half of it (the half we were in) fell down. It seemed to happen in slow motion and I remember we laughed so hard. Oh the carefree days of being a kid! Cheers Sarah : o )


    • What a great story, Sarah. I’m glad you weren’t hurt or it might have been a tale of woe.

      Yes, the days of climbing trees and scraping knees and staying outside till called seem idyllic don’t they. Great memories.


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