Winter Plan B

The crape myrtles are finally admitting it’s autumn.

crape myrtle autumn color

It’s about time, since the frosts are coming too. And you know what what that means: time to bag the tangerine tree.  What? No, I am not composting it. [Honestly, the things of which you think me capable…]

I am of course talking about protecting the tree– protecting it from bitter, heartless, eternal-until-February cold. This little citrus tree (tangerine “Darcy” I think) has been doing moderately well since it utterly outgrew the greenhouse and I planted it up against a south-facing wall here in Zone maybe 7.5 to 8-ish (western Oregon).

There passed a difficult summer during which Someone thought she was giving the tree adequate water but Was Not and then she finally noticed this inadequacy and made the Correction maybe two weeks before the fall rains began…

But its leaves are growing back, and anyway here it is today and do notice a couple orangey fruitnesses on it even now–but no blooms at all. (Citrus trees can be somewhat vindictive.)

tangerine tree

Now you may recall the herculean effort made last year to shelter this demanding little tree by virtually constructing a greenhouse around it. This was a staggeringly difficult and dazzlingly creative effort which involved a tall cylinder of wire fence, festive colored holiday lights for heat and a custom-fitted insulated but transparent cover composed of about $30/worth of bubblewrap and a lot of tape, with a removable top of same.

bubblewrap tangerine tree cover

Above is the cover, as it looked just before we set it over the lighted tree and also before the first windy rainstorm arrived. That storm, and every other windy rainstorm after that, ALWAYS ripped off the top and dropped the sides into the dirt, even when I thought I had tied the sides UP and after I trimmed the top back to within an inch of its life. It was a distressing outcome which I shall not illustrate with photos out of consideration for sensitive readers and because I was so mad about it that I didn’t take pictures.

After I had wrestled with this wet, muddy ensemble for maybe the fifth time last winter it occurred to me that I might seek a better solution. (Well okay I DID think momentarily about the compost pile– just for a couple seconds.)

So today I am pleased to introduce this year’s fabulous new tree protection technology: a drawstring bag from And please do not get all hung up on the spelling issues here–no just never mind that “protek” is not even a word

Here is the shiny flyer that came with the FrostProtek plant cover.

disturbing advertisement

Now, I’m a little uncomfortable with the sundresses associated with this product. “What the hell kind of winter is that?” I asked Max the terrier, “Is this bag really for when you run out of Coppertone SPF 50 on a hot afternoon and need emergency shade?”

And I see this item was of course manufactured in China… Well at least maybe in China it gets colder than in very southern California where that woman with the watering can lives probably by the beach where she will spend the afternoon flirting with  surfer guys before the cocktail party on the deck at six and the moonlight sale at nine when the day will finally cool as she browses the open-air shopping mall. (Good thing she put a bag over those delicate garden tomatoes.)

So this new product is a soft, openly woven, very large (55 inches wide by 72 inches tall) drawstring bag. It lets in light and water and a certain amount of cold air so I may have to fortify it with a blanket if the weather goes nuts and gets really cold. But, this bag can’t fall off the tree. For those of us suffering from the traumatic stress of the Collapsed Muddy Bubblewrap of last year, the not falling off of the tree bit is BIG.

Mr. O built a sturdy but removable wooden structure which will support the bag and would also support any additional blankets we might need to toss on in a crisis:

wood frame for tree cover

Here is the cover on the frame, in a preliminary fitting.

citrus tree covered for winter

We will have, you might say, a proper fit soon with holiday lights on the tree, for warmth, and a deep mulch of leaves around the base.

As always you can be assured that when winter ends I will give you the absolute honest truth of how this bag “performs” in my actual honest garden on my actual honest tree under whatever bizarre conditions are presented by the seriously-broken weather.

2009 ice stormBroken weather here a few years ago.

Really I’m feeling pretty darn confident about the new plant cover. It is secure against the wind, it will be heated from within by the lights, and it’s possible to enhance its warmth with blankets.

What could go wrong?

Tillie's idea


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in Tillie, trees and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Winter Plan B

  1. Ricki Grady says:

    So…we all know something can always go wrong, but looks like you have it pretty well covered, in every sense of the word.

    • linniew says:

      Oh Ricki, “something can always go wrong” is a powerful truth in the dimension where I live. But I have also found, in my years of tromping around here, that denial is about as effective as anything, so I will cheerfully (and with appreciation) stand with you in sweet confidence.

  2. Lyn says:

    Any citrus trees I own (or have owned) just have to take their chances in winter here, I’m afraid. Yes, they lose some leaves and yes, the remaining leaves go a little yellow, but their suffering is nothing compared to what I would suffer trying to rig up something like your marvellous shelters. I am not a handywoman. And in the end, no matter how much I pampered them, they would only produce – citrus fruit. Not remotely worth it. But hey, good luck with it and I hope you enjoy the tangerines much more than I would. 🙂

    • linniew says:

      Hi Lyn
      Yes I guess I enjoy eating tangerines more than you do. I also like that they produce fruit all year round–if they get enough water I mean. In any case it’s kind of a challenge to grow one outdoors here. The Meyer Lemon, which still fits into the greenhouse in winter, has actually produced more and better fruit so far. It is lovely to be cooking and need a lemon and know that one, or several, are ripe and organic and at hand.

  3. I am seriously impressed with your efforts to protek this little tree! Based on the sundress the little girl is wearing, I thought the bag would be green and double as clothing. I hope it works. My shrubs/trees are left to survive on their own in the winter. They’d probably much rather be in your garden than mine. 🙂

    • linniew says:

      Your comment made me laugh– thank you! To be honest I belong to the same school of tough plant growing as you do– this tree is something that Mr. O thinks is really fun, and he built the frame for it so I tried one more time with a cover. Then too when I haul home a bunch of stuff from a plant nursery it feels kind of fair and balanced, if you know what I mean.

  4. Roberta says:

    Isn’t it fun to see what a man will do when he loves tree? We bought our first citrus tree this year. It is a Meyer lemon tree, just a young thing yet and therefore it lives in a fairly large container. I had it in the backyard but thought it might fare better on the porch for more sunshine this time of year. I only had to mention it’s dubious placement in the backyard and the man retrieved it almost immediately, lugging it through enemy territory (through the coop where the rooster lives) and onto the porch where he can look adoringly at it as he eats his breakfast.

  5. Roberta says:

    I don’t know but it makes me glad that citrus trees are rather short and stout, otherwise I might very well end up living in a tree house.

  6. Peter says:

    “It is lovely to be cooking and need a lemon and know that one, or several, are ripe and organic and at hand.” We have something similar here, it’s called a grocery store and has the benefit of not requiring us to engineer and build a structure, buy an imported, breathable, transluscent tent, and provide blankets and decorations. Geeze, you might as well have your mother in law spend the winter. It’s crazy what we do to to pamper our marginal love interests through the winter. Zonal denial is a beautiful and sometimes messy affair. I wish your tangerine the best.

    • linniew says:

      Well, my mother-in-law died quite a while ago, so no threat there. As for the lemon, it lives in the greenhouse which is rather empty in winter and, being just outside the house, is quite a lot closer than the nearest grocery store, which is 10 miles away. (Not sure where you reside, but I do dream of someday living in a lovely Portland house half a block from about four nice little restaurants.) Now, as I indicated to Roberta, as a fruit tree the tangerine is really Mr O’s plant (along with all the more zonally appropriate apples, pears, cherries etc) and my role is one of support person– because I get garden support when I need it for MY projects. You know marriage is after all a give and take affair (you started that “affair” talk Peter), especially I think in the realm of gardening. –Plus it gives me topics for blog posts.

      My tangerine sends its best regards!

      • Peter/Outlaw says:

        Your tangerine seems quite cordial. I dream of living a little bit away from all this stuff in town; maybe we should switch.

        • linniew says:

          Well the tangerine does have a Dark Side. Viciously withholding fruit production, just for example.

          The house switch sounds wonderful. Maybe we could create a circle of gardeners, and every year we could all move one house over, like at the Mad Hatter’s teaparty– “Clean cup, clean cup. Move down.”

  7. At first I thought you had written ‘ crap myrtles’, a bit harsh I thought ! Anyway, after putting my eyes in and reading it properly, I’m so glad the ‘crape myrtles’ are doing well!

    • linniew says:

      Oh that is so funny! Because I used to think it had to be spelled “crepe” like the paper because the blooms looked like that, so I had to really work hard to learn to write “crape” — Then, too, one of the two trees refuses to bloom so maybe that one is indeed a crap myrtle…

  8. Grace says:

    That look on Tillie’s face… so devious and yet so innocent. Hide the scissors! It does seem odd that the models are wearing Southern California ware while demonstrating a frost protection device. Those Chinese… Well between the Chinese, you and Mr. O, methinks your citrus is well protected. Great post!

    • linniew says:

      Thanks Gracie!

      I do much prefer to buy domestic products, or preferably local ones, or to make things myself, but there are limits. I used to have a little flock of sheep, nice colors and wools, and I sewed canvas covers for them to wear, to help the fleece stay clean for spinning into yarn, which I also did. But somehow now I couldn’t face making a tree coat.

  9. Alistair says:

    I have to say, the preliminary fitting looks very impressive. I hope the tree stays short and stout, as described by Roberta. I am sure Tillie will warn you if any problem arises.

    • linniew says:

      With adequate abuse I expect it will remain sort of a bonsai tree so we are safe there. Peter is right– it’s a kind of madness to foster plants outside their god-given region. But really what would life be without these little challenges? [Easier.]

  10. Holleygarden says:

    It looks study enough. I hope it works out well for you, and no one gets the idea to cut on it! I have one tiny little orange tree that I’m hoping will grow as tall as yours someday – but then I will have to worry about winter protection, too. And I don’t think I could con my husband into building a frame. 😦

  11. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – I didn’t know tangerine trees had the potential to fruit all year round – I’m tempted to plant a pip.
    Shouldn’t the supporting structure be provided with the kit? Not all gardeners have a handy Mr.O.

    • linniew says:

      Hi b-a-g
      I think all citrus trees do that year-round fruit thing, and maybe that’s why so many people live in southern California. I’ve seen oranges languishing on lawns down there… I have come to fear that the bag I bought is really for late frosts in spring vegetable gardens. We shall see if it can adapt to real winter, or whether Mr O must build me the Crystal Palace after all–which is what’s known as a win/win situation.

  12. Katie says:

    Hi Linnie!
    Best of luck with the little tangerine tree. I’ll be watching to see if your frost cover is worthwhile. I’ve got a little curry tree that will be too big to bring into the kitchen by next year, (hopefully)! Take care those winds don’t blow your little tree’s skirt up too!

  13. Alberto says:

    Hahaha! Tillie made me laugh a lot after all that climax you created about your new chinifornian product. Did you know that what you think about Californian people is what most of the world think about almost the entire US? Except for those skinny teeth less old men that live in the middle of corn-regions somewhere in America. I guess movies give a slightly weird idea of people and places…
    But I am so glad you didn’t turn your tangerine into a huge Xmas jar this year, I hope it’s going to work and I’m sure you will keep us posted in case it will (we know you won’t in case it won’t…). Ok I’m going to browse the pronoun chapter ASAP on the English grammar book….

    • linniew says:

      First, I must clarify that I love parts of California. San Francisco, and the awesome coast and mountains and the redwood forest. And the weather in the south is amazing– especially San Diego, where it’s sort of always perfect. Although I like the San Francisco fog better I think. Anyway, when I was young there was a huge flow of people from California to Oregon, because of the real estate values, among other things. The bumper sticker read: ‘Don’t Californicate Oregon’ which was very unfair but very present. For years new people were afraid to admit they were transplants from the south. Now it seems almost everyone in Oregon is a transplant from someplace else. (I like to think of us all as Earthlings.)

      But I am aware of the Ugly American tradition. I try to flip a bit of that coin, but it’s difficult, especially without a travel budget. And Geo.Bush didn’t help…

      You’re checking the pronoun chapter? OMG, what did I write?

      • Alberto says:

        Nope, you tell me what I did wrote please! 😉
        So if I got it right you are from California? But I guess you are fully hardy since you’ve been living under Oregon rain, snow and frost for years… And now I have one more question… have you been transplanted or did they take cuttings from another you?!

        • linniew says:

          No, no cuttings! Although you must mean cloning… I am no transplant– I’m one of those third generation Oregon people. (Some call this ‘quaint’–) But I think YOU have moved far from your origins, since you must host family at your house when you see them?

          • Alberto says:

            Are we competing about who is the most foreign? 🙂
            Well just to start I didn’t change Country nor State. I just moved 170km, from the mountains to the coast of the same region. This is because family should be kept well. Well far away I mean. 😉

            • linniew says:

              Oh Alberto– competing? Really I wouldn’t mind moving 2000 miles across the country to New England, maybe Vermont, where it snows, but my children are in Oregon and California, and it is awfully nice here.

              Now I see by my handy km to mi convertor that you put about 100 miles between you and family, pretty perfect I imagine, and moving toward the sea is always important–I don’t really know how anyone lives far from a coast.

  14. Dear Linnie, I am SO impressed with your efforts and can’t wait to see the outcome! P. x

  15. sharon says:

    haha good picture of you!!

  16. Does that coddled thing even produce tangerines to earn its keep? Did the bag come with the dress because most women wearing that dress would need to be covered?

  17. Well firstly I thought you made up the crape myrtle, being so clever at photography, then I looked it up, what a curious beautiful thing. We’ve not been introduced before, unlike darcy. What a trauma that was last year or you all. So I wish you luck! If tillie doesn’t behave perhaps you can threaten her with that frock?

    • linniew says:

      I suppose someone made up the crape myrtle once but it wasn’t me–not this time. Tillie most always wears the same style dress. (Her closet is full of them.)

      • kininvie says:

        When I read about your myrtle, I misread it as a crap myrtle. Which it obviously isn’t. Such misunderstandings can be avoided if you use the correct spelling – which is crepe (with a circumflex accent if you are being posh). You US types do make life difficult for yourselves with your weird orthography. And where are you anyway? Hibernating?

        • linniew says:

          Dearest Kininvie,
          As you doubtless WELL know, the myrtle is spelled both crape and crêpe or crepe. The Crape Myrtle Society of America (extremely posh maybe) use the A–like crape, a kind of crinkly fabric. (“Crepe” makes me hungry.) As for my whereabouts, I am working on that. But I see you took a laptop computer into the cave with you…


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