Thirty Days in the Garden: Citrus in Bloom

Our citrus trees are blooming again. The waxy flowers produce an intoxicating scent that invites you to linger below the tree.

Lemon tree buds
Orange Blossom

We inherited an orange tree when we bought the house, along with a tall lemon tree and an almond. I never tasted the almonds, but the squirrels certainly approved. They remained well-fed during the tree’s tenure.

Squirrel eating sunflower seeds on our deck

Sadly, two of those three trees suffered from neglect. The lemon tree had been allowed to fork early. The tree grew two long trunks that started splitting the tree in half. We harvested the lemons as best we could and tied the two trunks together for support.

Alas, I arrived home one day, puzzled by the bright sun at the corner of the house. It took me a moment to realize that our lemon tree had split down the middle. Half the tree lay sprawled across the garden.

The almond tree suffered from a lethal fungus internal to the tree. The arborist recommended removing it before it fell down. Sadly, it had to go.

Only one established tree in the back garden remained: the orange.

Anna’s hummingbird resting in the orange tree

We bought a Meyer lemon to replace the tree we lost and made sure it grew in an upright manner. I’ve also tried to prune it in such a way that it remains easy to harvest. The lemon started in a pot, but it didn’t take off until it went into the ground. It occupies a space in our side yard, where we share it with our neighbors.

Lemon tree, ivy, azalea, lily, and Jasmin vine

It’s easy to forget all these years later how far we’ve come with shipping and refrigeration. As a young girl in Canada, an orange was a special treat placed in the bottom of our Christmas stocking. Oranges weren’t readily available in Ontario at that time, or if they were, they were pricey.

I sometimes look back on a time when things weren’t plentiful. It’s good to keep one’s perspective. When I sit under the orange tree, fragrant blossoms inviting me to lift my head skyward, I’m reminded of the extraordinary gift of citrus in bloom.

Grateful Orange

It’s easy to take things for granted when they’re plentiful and so it goes with oranges. Since living in California, I can hardly remember a time when they weren’t around. We have an orange tree in our garden that came with the house. It’s probably been there 25 years.

When my boys were young they loved making orange juice, though individually the fruit isn’t always sweet. I love the smell of oranges lined up on the kitchen counter, sliced and waiting for the juicer.

Our plentiful oranges keep the neighborhood rats from getting scurvy as well. The tree offers shade in the summer and currently shelters a large nest for opossums or squirrels. It’s a well-rounded tree.

Orange Tree, Nest and Tree Rat

Orange Tree, Nest and Tree Rat

California is now in day five of an unusual cold snap, with temps dropping into the twenties and low thirties.  That’s about ten degrees below normal for this time of year, threatening citrus growers up and down this large state. Prolonged temperatures in the mid-twenties or below cause damage to citrus crops.

According to Newser:

State wide, large growers deployed wind machines to keep the warm air closer to the ground and irrigation to raise the temperature in the groves. Rows farthest away from the protection could be damaged, Story said. And farmers who do not have wind machines could lose crops.

Our tree is far too big to drape in frost cloth. There are no industrial strength fans to force down warm air. The health of the tree is in the hands of nature. The orange tree grows at the corner of the fence.  Neighboring pines tower nearby. That shelter may see it through. I hope so.

I hope, too, that our weather returns to a seasonal normal.  Then citrus growers up and down the state will prevail. It’s a great reminder to appreciate all we have.  I’m grateful for the orange.

Orange Tree with Pine Bough

Orange Tree with Pine Bough