January 14, 2016

Mid-Season Citrus, Camellias and a Nice Clivia

Clivia from our collecting trips to Japan remain most prominent in our collection, but many of these seedlings have yet to bloom. Most, thankfully, are interesting crosses, such as this interspecific, a cross between Clivia miniata and C. gardenii. With flowers that at more pastel in color, and slender in form, it can look very un-clivia like, especially when the plant produces many stems, as this one has. I know that I can't keep them all, but somehow, I am!

There's a season for everything around here, and even though it is January and mid winter, in the greenhouse, it's clearly spring. This has to be one of the most amazing things about keeping a greenhouse in the cold north - that under-glass, it's a completely different world than what it is outside. Plants however, are still responding to the factors that control bloom time and dormancy, and for us that means that South African plants are sensing the triggers to bloom, that citrus are beginning to ripen their fruit, since they are convinced that they are in southern Italy, sunny Israel or even, in California. The fact that my lemons are 32 miles from snowy Boston? Doesn't factor in.

I love that. 

Please, don't tell the camellias that it is 6 degrees F. outside.

With two Meyer lemon trees ripening about 100 lemons, I sense a batch of marmalade and lemon curd on the horizon.

Giant Etrog Citron's ripen in the January sunshine. So huge and unusual, these citrons are not only important in the Jewish culture, they are delicious, but don't expect any juicy flesh. Instead they are all pith. A thick, white pith which ripens to a fragrant, violet-scented crispy apple-like texture which have to be experienced to be appreciated.

Calamondin oranges, tiny, sour and in this case, variegated, not only makes an attractive greenhouse specimen, it makes a great house plant. As for the fruit? Save them for your cup of tea. Alone, they are rather un-palatable. 

The unusual 'Limequat' has ripened into sweet and sour, orbs of juicy goodness. A cross between a lime and a kumquat (Citrus x floridana) I wish that I had enough to make a curd or desert, but I pruned this tree heavily this year, to create a standard. So I only have about a dozen fruit. I save these for drinks, and - ok, I'll just admit it - Cocktails.

Traditional Kumquats such as this Sweet Kumquat 'Meiwa' is one of our favorites, because it no only tastes great, but it produces an abundance of fruit in mid-winter, and who wouldn't appreciate that? I keep about six type of Kumquats, and then added a new one this weekend  from Logee's Greenhouses.

I can't seem to have enough kumquat trees, as eating them warm, straight from the tree reminds me of winter trips to California, and believe me, nothing tastes like a kumquat right off the tree. Forget the store bought ones - they just taste like bitter orange peels. I added a new one to my collection this weekend - 'Changshou' Kumquat (Fortunella obviate 'Fukushu'. The folks at Logee's told us that it is a hard to find variety, they have been working for the past five years to bring it to the US market.], since they feel that it is the best kumquat they have ever grown. It will make a great potted specimen, I was told, so it was selected to be potted in one of my newly acquired antique rolled-rim terra rosa pots.

I lost the tag to this camellia, but it is one of my earliest bloomers. Repotted last year, it has 24 flowers on it. Too bad that they only last a day on the shrub, and then fall off on to the bench. 
 I've become so accustomed to camellias blooming in winter around here, that it's hard to imagine my life without them, but there was a time, before I had the greenhouse, when keeping a camellia seemed impossible. They are just too challenging to keep alive in the house, so unless you have an unheated room which remains cool and bright, or a sunny, porch or entrance way which barely freezes, the camellia may need to only be experienced in southern gardens, or at your local botanic garden.

There was a time when every northern greenhouse kept camellias, handy for last-minute corsages in a time before air travel made imported flowers as common as, well, air travel. The original locavore flower in the winter, they remain uncommon everywhere where they cannot be grown outdoors (south of Zone 9).

'Tama Bambino', one of the popular offspring in the Tama series, a group of offspring from a well known red and white flowered Japanese cross discovered in the wild in 1947 called 'Tama no Ura' after where it was found on Tama-no-ura, Fuku'e Island, Goto archipelago, Nagasaki. This is an anemone double form, with a nice, tight flower that is outfacing.

Camellia's are quickly becoming my darlings - I've added 16 new varieties this fall, as since plants live for 100 years or more, I have visions of eventually donating the trees to a botanic garden someday. Camellias are rather sturdy when grown in a cold greenhouse. They can handle moderate freezes, which means when the heater fails, which it will undoubtedly do at least once every winter, they may be the only plants to survive. Even a hard freeze, as long as it is short lived, will only damage the flower buds for that season. As long as the roots don't freeze for a long period, most camellia's will recover. This helped make the camellia one of the most popular greenhouse and conservatory plants in the 18th and 19th centuries. Talk about heirloom flowers!

'Aye' Aye' Aye', a variegated flower which seems to produce more solid color flowers than it does variegated ones.


  1. Anonymous8:58 AM

    Ooooh those lemons do look lovely! Very envious of the lemon curd in your future...

    1. Mmm, you know, I always make marmalade and not lemon curd, but I think you gave me a great idea. Thanks!

  2. That camellia may only last a day, but it has to be a good day, because it's beautiful.

  3. I am so envious of your greenhouse. I brought in a few plants that I either hang in a window or put on a table in my living room (the only room that I can shut off from my plant nibbling cats). Enjoyed your wonderful photos.

    1. Thanks Roses and Lilacs! When we grew our houseplants indoors, the cooler bedrooms were so full of plants, that when we built the greenhouse, it made the house feel empty. Funny thing is, that now, the house if full of house plants again, as is the greenhouse!

  4. Nice to see your Meyer lemons. I have a different lemon but it has now got blossoms and the start of some little lemons. It has been two years since it last had lemons. Way back some place on this blog I posted photos - but don't ask me where. My resent postings are a two part series on the ice sculptures here on the shores of Lake Michigan. A reminder that the lemons and I are better off inside at this point. jajajajaj JC

    1. Good luck with your new lemon crop JC! Be sure to pollinate the flowers yourself, if the bees can't get at them!

  5. Where is my comment ?

    1. Hi Dung. Your comment was back-linked to a commercial website entitled Generators Online. Leaving vague comments on blogs is common practice to enhance ones own SEO, but you probably know that it is also considered unacceptable behavior. It's my policy to delete comments when they link back to unrelated content, or if they seem to be an unsolicited link. Such backlinks weaken my SEO. as it has nothing to do with the blog post topic. I welcome any comment, as long as it is legitimate, honest and comes from your personal email account, or from a relevant gardening website or blog. Thanks!


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