Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Portable Orchard

Maybe it's because they are person-sized and their outspread branches look like arms reaching out, but ever since I planted them four years ago, I've grown attached to my apple trees.  They almost seem more like people than plants.  Year-round they stand bravely around the patio, first veiled in flowers, then covered with leaves, studded with fruit in the fall and alternately sleeping and shivering--like me--in winter.

I will hate to leave them behind when we move.  Sure, there will be room in our new micro-garden for an apple tree or two, but they won't be these trees, whom I planted and nursed and fussed over from infancy to their present lovely maturity.

Fortunately, I'll be able to take my stalwart Giuseppina, the potted fig tree (see last post), with me.  But that is not all.

The tiny potted Meyer Lemon that I bought last year gave birth to six outsize lemons that I soaked in vodka and a simple syrup to make a lovely limoncello.  This, and the glossy deep-green leaves, and the fragrance that made my head swim every time I walked by, turned me into a citrus grower of sorts.

I was in Albany on a freezing January day when, going into a nursery for a shot of plant energy, I found a Page Orange tree that had been trained to have an upright trunk and a rounded canopy, just like the ones in Versailles.  I promptly bought it--it was the only one in the store--and brought it home, where it perfumed our sunny porch.  Then its blooms faded and were replaced with multitudes of baby Page Oranges (actually a hybrid between a tangelo and a tangerine) that I mist and murmur to every day.

The next time I was in Albany--how could I not--I stopped by the same nursery, and found a Calamondin Orange. I had had one of these before.  Its scented blooms were succeeded by dozens of tiny bitter fruits that I didn't know what to do with.  But that was before the internet, which has many ingenious uses for Calamondin Oranges.  So I brought the little tree home.

Meanwhile, the Meyer Lemon, which I had pruned to within an inch of its life in the hopes of making it look less like a bush and more like a tree, recovered and started putting out blooms.  But all this was happening indoors, and my experience last year taught me that, although the plant may bloom and set fruit abundantly in the house, only the flowers that are fertilized outdoors tend to make it to harvest. 

I wanted to make more limoncello--lots of limoncello, in fact--but a single tree might not yield enough fruit at one time to make a significant batch.  So I ordered another tree, online.  It is on its way as I write. 

I am doing all this, mind you, while simultaneously carrying out a draconian purging of our worldly belongings.  It is a testimony to my spouse's saintliness that he has not objected to this paradoxical behavior on my part.  True, the citrus trees will spend the summer outside.  But the minute the temperature goes anywhere near freezing, probably around the beginning of October, those four trees will come into our wee cottage, there to be misted and watered and given special lights and get in our way until April or possibly May.

What can I say?  I can no longer keep goats or raise chickens or grow vegetables.  But I have to farm something, and I will pour as much love and attention on those potted citrus trees and on the fig Giuseppina as I did on Lizzy and Emma--the goats--and the hens and the eggplants, the peppers and the apple trees.

7 comments :

  1. Sorry you have to leave them behind...

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  2. But they'll be nice and straight, thanks to your help.

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  3. Imagining what it is like to be saying good-bye to these things. Also, wondering what it is like to have to bring your lemon trees inside over winter!

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  4. They do fine indoors, by a sunny window. They also like to be misted regularly. They actually bloom and set fruit indoors.

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  5. You DO have to farm something. I continue to be in major denial about your leaving.

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  6. I also plan to cultivate some serenity, and maybe even some patience and acceptance...

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