Citrus Dreams

By Teo Spengler | October 13, 2022
Image by richterfoto
by Teo Spengler
October 13, 2022

Plants touch all of our senses if we let them. Leaves can be fuzzy or smooth or prickly; they are different shapes and interesting to observe. Their wind song soothes like a lullaby in our ears, and the fruits offer different and often delicious tastes.

But fragrance is among the most powerful of their attributes. I love the smell of every living plant, but one marked me more than any other over: citrus blossoms. While I first fell in love with citrus smells from orange blossoms, today I get a daily dose thanks to my container lemon tree.

Orange Blossoms Forever

For years, when I lived primarily in France, my “second home” was a Volkswagen van named Whitney, after Mount Whitney, the highest peak she has ascended. She is purple with a pop-top and has transported me from California to Canada and up and down the West coast of Mexico too.

Once when I was coming up to the City by the Bay from Mexico, I crossed Death Valley and took winding backroads toward the coast. Coming up one particular rise, I was totally overwhelmed by a fragrance so powerful it felt like a living force. I stopped the van and just sat there breathing in the heady fragrance for 10 minutes, admiring the flowering trees on either side. They were orange trees, filled with orange blossoms, and I have never in my life been so completely enchanted, even bowled over by a smell.

My Backyard Lemon Tree

I was never able to cultivate an orange tree in my yard in San Francisco, and France temperatures dropped too low in winter to allow for an orange tree, let alone groves of them. But I was able to recreate the experience in miniature by bringing in a lemon tree. Even so, I planted it in a large pot, not the ground.

The lemon tree I selected was an Improved Meyer Lemon, and the first season it stayed about a foot (30 cm.) tall and offered no lemon tree blossoms at all. I moved the container lemon into the house in winter. But the second year, I woke up to a whiff of the glorious citrus fragrance I longed for: one lemon blossom had opened.

Potted Lemon Power

I have to say, after that first blossom opened, my container lemon has never failed me. Buds appeared regularly after that initial flower opened, exuded fragrance and created fruit. The tree has grown to some 4 feet (1.2 m.) tall and is almost always decorated by white blossoms and egg-yolk-yellow fruit.

Improved Meyer Lemon is a terrific way to break into growing citrus. The keys to success are mild winters, some sun every day and well-draining soil. I guarantee the fragrance will improve your life every single day.

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