Where’s the Crystal Palace when I need it?

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We would have acres of orange trees and olive trees and maybe some papaya trees, with pineapples growing underneath, if Mr. O had his way. (In Oregon. Right.)

Crystal Palace

It might be okay if we had the Crystal Palace out back. Then there would be room for lots of trees to be kept inside. (Mr. O has an old clock with this picture of it on the glass door…) The 1851 building was over 1800 feet long and 125 feet tall, more than adequate for a huge orangery.

But London’s Crystal Palace is gone now, burned away in 1936, probably by someone trying to ignite a Dictamnus plant.

tangerine tree

In spite of it all, our citrus crop is coming along. Image above is a tangerine tree we planted out this spring, up against the south side of our house. “Planted out” is polite for “kicked out of the greenhouse” — (We had to get an attorney to write up the eviction paperwork but it was worth it.)

Growing a tree in a little greenhouse can go on for a couple of years, but then even something like this tangerine, of the “Dancy” variety and I believe grafted to stay short, just keeps getting wider and taller too till the greenhouse is like a jungle and you can’t find the bench or the pots or the way out.

Then last winter this tree became what you would call “totaled” if it were a car wreck.  It had scale, a massively creepy condition that is actually little sucky animals that in this case looked sort of like tiny shelled sea creatures on all the stems. And it had a serious aphid problem, and so then it had that sticky black stuff growing on all the leaves, but the leaves were mostly yellow anyway. It was a mess and bad for the neighborhood.

Now it’s better…

tangerinesSince we planted it in the earth the aphids and sucky scale have departed.  I really thought all the yellow leaves were doomed and would drop, but slowly, after treats of chelated iron about every two weeks since May, it is going green again.

tiny tangerineCitrus trees are kind of random and produce flowers and tiny fruit and mature fruit all the time and all at once. This one just finished blooming and has two sizes of green tangerines today.

Now, I realize that this is the Happy Time for a heat lover like this. But winter looms. I recently sought counsel from a cousin who grows citrus trees in the vicinity of Sacramento. She said to put a string of little Christmas lights on it in the winter, and put a clear cover over it when the freezes are threatening, and it will be fine. Fine? It will be adorable! Around Halloween I should be able to buy a string of tangerine colored lights… (Did you know I like lights in the garden?)

We were so happy with our healthier looking tangerine that we went berserk and mindlessly bought a dwarf Meyer Lemon.

Meyer LemonOh good, another potential mistake for the greenhouse. And don’t worry, I’ve already started the chelated iron for the pajama striped leaves.

lemonsThese lemons have grown a lot since we got the plant. They will get very dark yellow/orange and be wonderful to cook with, or to slice for my glass of  Hefeweizen. (The Plant Goddess grows so many Meyer Lemons on her indoor plant that she has to turn them into juice to freeze.)

I’m thinking if the plastic suit works out for the tangerine we’ll boot the lemon out next summer…

olive treeAnd here’s the olive tree.

It’s a Spanish variety called Arbequina. For some unknown reason it ended up in the rhubarb department on the edge of the vegetable garden. It can survive to 10 degrees F. so there’s hope if we’re careful. I’m actually worried about it producing olives because I have no idea what to do with them.

almond tree

Here is one of the baby almond trees, called Prima. We got the olive and the almonds from an Oregon nursery called One Green World. It has an online catalog but we are close enough to drive to the nursery to shop.

We like to keep things native and local for the most part, but in this case a few hardy weird trees from Russia or someplace keeps Mr. O happy and adds Peculiarity and Astonishment, both so essential for gardens these days. (Not in the landscaping books? Really?)

The almond is a pretty little tree, and will grow to 15 feet or so if we don’t kill it. It has sort of a peach-leaved-bellflower leaf.

(Because I didn’t want to just say “peach-leaved,” that’s why.)

They can survive -20 F so we are okay there unless the weather is even more broken than we think, which remains to be seen. In the spring the almond had lovely fruit-tree type blooms, but that was before I started photographing everything every minute for this blog so I can’t show you.

Time to paint. Porch is done, so it’s back to the scaffold for the upstairs part. (I’ll be wearing my shoes with the big springs on the bottom, just to be safe.)


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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24 Responses to Where’s the Crystal Palace when I need it?

  1. Angie Case says:

    Be safe up there my friend! Wags to Max from Shiloh and Dinky Doc Brown!

  2. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – Thanks for the snippet of British History. We still have the hot-house in Kew Gardens, which looks quite similar, if you need a model for an orangery in your back garden.

    • linniew says:

      I do recall the one at Kew, Bag, from my single visit to London years ago. I loved it, and it would certainly do beautifully in the pasture, but it wasn’t painted on the clock…

  3. I have a client who built an orangery, but never put in any oranges. Good thing too. But I like your lemon tree, they are so darn expensive, it would be great to pick your own. I need a greenhouse that grows citrus. Maybe I could slip one in at the farm.

    • linniew says:

      The lemon trees are happy outside in milder weather, and can be kept in a house in the cold times if you have some significant glass for light. The lemons can be allowed to truly ripen on the plant which is why they taste better I think, along with that satisfying “I grew it” feeling.

  4. Fairy lights? They seem to be order of the day. I’ve just read a post on another blog about people putting fairy lights up round their tent!

    Almond tree – I’ve never met an almond tree. Suddenly, it seems very desirable.


    • linniew says:

      And Esther I forgot to add that, for a while, there were little almonds coming from the blossoms on that tree, but then they dropped off, from the cold spring weather or because the tree is too young or maybe the squirrels frightened them, hard to say…

  5. Alberto says:

    Linniew: one thing is for sure with olives: NEVER taste them raw! They’re horrible. And now I’m sure you will taste them, because I said NEVER.

    • linniew says:

      To tell the honest truth, (which you know I always do) a couple of olives did grow on that little tree last summer, and of course I ate one raw, and of course you are right, it was awful. There must be recipes….

      • Alberto says:

        I think the best think to do is pickle them (in salty water). There’s people here that brings some good harvest to the oil mill and they get a couple of bottles or so in exchange (of oil, not empty!!!).
        By what I know about almonds I never planted a single one, my climate is too cold for them. They have credible almonds trees only from Rome and southern…

        • linniew says:

          If I ever get more than two olives I will look into pickling them Alberto. Mr. O made cucumber pickles once, maybe I can get him to take responsibility for the coming olive crop.

  6. Sheila says:

    I am so jealous of all your exotic fruit trees. I am busy hiding from my garden, despite the wilting flowers and veggies, because I am just not in the mood to be blasted by heat and then have to change clothes and take a shower. At the same time, your post makes me once more wish for a sunny garden in which I could grow fruit trees. Or large tomatoes. Or squash.

    • linniew says:

      I hope so much that the heat breaks for you soon Sheila! This has been an unbelievable season. Here we barely know it’s summer… Sending you and your garden coooool thoughts!

  7. hillions says:

    I’ve had a meyer lemon for years. The first year I gave the crop–what is the singular for crop?– cro?–to my friend Kristen for her b-day. The next year I gave the cro to Maggie for hers. This year I bought a kumquat. Had intended to buy a purple petunia and this is what came of that. It’s very fruity. No doubt because it was covered with buds when I bought it. You appear to have a lot more space to kill things in than I do. I love the name of your blog. It is aspirational.

    • linniew says:

      Your cros (croes? surely not crows) sound lovely to ME. At least they were edible, unlike my two olives last year. I love that your petunia purchase became a kumquat. ( I’ll have to think about what it means, but it’s deep.) Yes lots of room here to massacre plants. Thinking of putting the clematis cuttings on oxygen tanks actually.

  8. I would love to have that Crystal Palace. Besides being so large and beautiful, I could have any plant, vegetable, or fruit I wanted. Hope you get lots of citrus…

    • linniew says:

      We pretty much all need a Palace. Live in one wing, garden in the other… lots of light for failing eyesight problems. We’d need a window washing service though.

  9. Aimee says:

    Your garden continues to astound me. Exotic tropical fruit trees? A friend in Berkeley has a huge meyer lemon tree in his yard and I made my grandma Minnie Mae’s lemon sponge pie with them – best EVER. Forget the crystal palace, you are making me pine for even a pre-fab greenhouse. Oh, for more room, more room!

    I too have had an unforgettably bad experience sampling an olive from a tree. Brine, brine, and more brine – if you do ever get more than two.

    Love the image of the tangerine-lit-tangerine tree!

    • linniew says:

      Grandma Minnie Mae’s lemon sponge pie? Did you mean cake, Aimee? (And you wouldn’t make up a whole grandma would you?) Share the recipe and I promise to try it and post the outcome!

  10. Bridgetidget says:

    How fab to be able to grow such exotics outdoors. My friend has a Lemon Tree but it has to be minded and brought indoors when weather is colder. As for an Almond tree, I have never hears of one growing anywhere in Ireland.

    • linniew says:

      Our lemon will get to winter in the greenhouse until it gets too big. Then, if the tangerine survives, I expect we will plant the lemon out too. But they will both definitely need some cold cover in about January.

  11. Grace says:

    I love the idea of lights on the tree and plastic if the temp drops deadly low. I can’t wait to see how your tangerine fares this winter. Please keep us posted. So is Tillie helping you paint? Ha, ha, ha. Just thought I’d ask. She’s probably busy in the wine cellar. 🙂

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