The Tale of Two Lemon Trees

Prologue

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…

 Epilogue

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.