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.

Lemony Lemons

We have lemons!  Tiny, just-getting-started lemons. Aren’t they cute?

tiny lemon

Objects in this photo are smaller than they appear

It’s been a long time coming, but our dwarf lemon tree is beginning to bear fruit.

more lemons

More lemons

According to Wikipedia:

Citrus × meyeri, the Meyer lemon, is a citrus fruit native to China thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange. It was introduced to the United States in 1908  by the agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China.

The Meyer lemon is commonly grown in China in garden pots as an ornamental tree. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse during the California Cuisine revolution.

Popularity further climbed when Martha Stewart began featuring them in her recipes.

I didn’t know any of this.

dwarf lemon tree

Dwarf Lemon Tree

Two years ago, our tree started producing thorns. I assumed this was a sign that it was ready to bear fruit. Further reading proved otherwise. True lemons have sharp thorns, but the hybrids do not. Any thorns found on a Meyer Lemon are apparently the product of the original rootstock.

This article say that: article,

If the thorns are on branches sprouting from below the grafting union  the best thing to do is to prune them off. Those branches won’t produce Meyer lemons and your tree is wasting energy growing them anyway.
If the thorns are on the Meyer lemon portion of the tree and the tree is otherwise healthy, the best thing to do is ignore them and protect your hands with gloves when you harvest the lemons.

I went back and checked all the branches with tiny fruit and most of them have thorns.

This early in the game, I’m inclined to leave the thorns where they are.  Since the tree is producing fruit it seems best to leave well enough alone.  They won’t ripen for several months, so I can keep my eye on things and see what plays out.

What do you think? Would you remove the thorns?

lemon tree thorn

Thorns