Friday, March 29, 2013

Lemon Palooza

"How do you keep your lemons from freezing?"  And your limes?  Bob asked one evening as we were  sitting in the garden drinking wine.

"I don't," I told him.  He was shocked.  Conventional wisdom dictates you must protect your citrus form frost.  And in case you have any doubts, the barrage of ads as winter closes in, for frost-protecting sprays and cloths and other miracles will convince you..but not me.  Stubborn that way.

I have lived a long time, gardened longer, learned a bit.  Some of the wisdom is hard-earned, most is passed down from older and wiser gardeners.  Not hardier, just older and wiser.

"If they are going to break my heart I'd rather know it now."  I said about my lemons and limes.  And kumquats and blood oranges.  "There will be a time when I'll be too old to drape them with Ree-may or put Christmas lights on them, and they will freeze.  So I'd rather they leave me broken-hearted now, and if they die I will plant something else, something hardier* in their place."

I do make an exception for the Kaffir lime on the front porch in a fancy pot - it smells divine, and I knew it was too tender for here when I bought it.  So it is draped with twinkle lights, the tiny Christmas lights that keep it just enough warmer, the margin between survival and heartbreak.  The lights are on a timer, on at dusk when the air grows cold, off at dawn when the gardener is up and watchful.  I hope.  If she's home and has had some strong tea.  No guarantees, for winter mornings are dark and cold, and winter comforters are warm and snuggly.

But then that's the lesson of gardening, right?  No guarantees.  Even if you cheat (use ree-may, rig the elections) the results still may not be as you expected.  And the long-term?  Brace yourself.  You're in for a rough ride.

So I will not drape my citrus.  I will not cheat.  And I look forward to the future with a calm and happy heart.  My garden will be what it will be, and I am happy with who I am.

Can you say the same?

*Note: Hardier refers only to the plant's ability to stand the cold - not its ability to stand up to drought or your neglect or poor watering practices.  So many people refer to plants as hardy when they can take abuse - drought, heat, crappy soil, mis-aligned or stingily applied irrigation.  So very many people get this one wrong...but not you!  Not any more...

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