Friday, April 14, 2006


Oranges and lemons

I've just been tidying up my greenhouse. Two of its most respected and important residents are an orange tree and a lemon tree.

Citrus trees die when the temperature drops below -2C. So neither of these trees is really suitable for growing in the English climate (especially this last winter). With this in mind. I've been heating the place with a paraffin heater whenever frost threatens, and in the past few days I have been rewarded by the sight of some white blossom just beginning to appear.

The smaller and younger of the two is the lemon tree - given to me by my son and daughter in law as a Christmas present. The orange - much bigger and scruffier - was imported from Corsica. I was inspired to get a Corsican "oranger" when I spotted one advertised in Marshall's nursery catalogue. I ordered one, but after waiting several months it still hadn't arrived, so I told Marshalls to cancel the order - and I would bring one back with me next time I went to my favourite island.

I should have realised what was ahead of me when the amused air hostess said airily "Oh, I used to have one of those but it died" as I struggled onto the plane with my "hand-baggage". Three years later, a little caterpillar-eaten and coated with paraffin soot, it's still there, just. Oranges? Not really. I did harvest a couple of walnut sized examples a year ago, but it hasn't yet justified it's winter heating bill with its output of Vitamin C.

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