The Little Orange Tree That Could

home-grown orange blossom

Like a bee, I was lured to the table by the sweet smell of orange blossoms.  There it sat, a lone orange among two lemons.  Not really trees.  Barely even bushes.  Mostly twigs, covered with fragrant white blossoms.

They were the worst for their time at the garden center.  Too much sun.  Too little water.  I briefly considered buying all three.  Or maybe just the orange and one lemon.  But I wasn’t too optimistic about their survival.  And I only had room for one.  I inhaled and sighed.

I love the smell of Orange Blossoms.

home-grown orange blossom
Orange blossom. Photo credit: Linda Anselmi

Citrus isn’t a natural for our area.  Our winters are too cold.  Overnights near freezing, sometimes below.  Our summers, generally too rainy.   It would have to stay a potted plant.   Drainable.  Movable to capture the most sun and least frost.   It would have to be covered during the worst weather.  It would be a hassle.

But the little bush smelled divine… I took the orange home.

In time, the white petals fell off.  I collected them into a small dish to enjoy inside.  Little green fruit formed, but quickly fell off too.  It was expected.  The plant was too young to produce.  The general rule of thumb says 3-5 years.   So, maybe, next year or the year after.  Images of home-grown oranges danced in my head.

I transplanted the orange “tree” to a larger pot and found it a sunny spot.  It grew and greened.  Then, one day I spotted a single green fruit ball hiding among the leaves.  It was the size of a small marble.   And it made me smile.  I knew it wouldn’t last.  Every time I walked past I expected to see the little fruit laying in the dirt at the bottom of the pot.

But my lone, miniature green orange held on…

Weeks passed.  Then months.   My little green marble continued to grow.  When it reached lime size I braced the branch it was on.  At lemon size I braced the fruit itself.  The plant seemed healthy, if a little bowed.  I should have removed it, then.  But I couldn’t.  The possibility of my first home-grown orange had taken hold.  It was the little orange tree that could.

Amazed by this little plants stamina, I did my part.  Fertilized per instructions.  Made sure the soil of the pot wasn’t too wet or too dry.  As the cold weather came, I made a cover from bubble wrap.  Maximizing its sun exposure and protecting it from the cold overnight, I moved it morning and night.  I wanted that lone fruit to ripen fast.

Monitoring that little orange became my obsession.

first home-grown orange tree
Orange “tree” with first orange. Photo credit: Linda Anselmi

At nearly orange size, it was heavy and absurdly big for the spindly branch it was on.  The leaves were beginning to show signs of stress.  I should have picked it then for the sake of the tree.  But I did not.  Just one more week I thought, maybe two.

As if on cue, the orange started to lose its green color.  First blushing a yellowish green.  Then, gaining splotches of orange.  A fully ripe, home grown orange was only days/weeks away.  I hoped.

But would the plant hold up that long?

Daily I checked and fretted.  As the orange turn oranger,  I waited and tested its weightiness.  Should I pick today?  Should I wait one more day?  How orange is an orange in nature?   And what is the test for ripeness?

It was the plant that finally made the decision.  The distress of the fruit branch became more evident.  The shiny dark green leaves had dull and yellowed.  Now, they curled inward.  The plant had had enough.  Ripe or not.   The waiting was at an end.

I picked my first ever, home-grown Orange.

It was ripe, juicy, sweet and delicious!  And I savored every bite.  But I also wondered if the poor orange tree would survive.  And if it did, how soon it would produce again…

home-grown Orange - crop of one
1st home-grown orange. Photo credit: Linda Anselmi

To be continued…




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