Cultivating Lemon Trees

When my late husband and I bought our first home in Clayton, California the first thing we did was hire a landscape architect to plant the beautiful backyard we had there.

My husband was a commercial concrete executive, and he told me he could pour me a concrete patio that looked like a Persian rug and he wasn’t kidding.  He ended up designing and building the most gorgeous patio room that I have had ever seen before or since.  It had lights embedded in the stone walls with concrete and stone benches that ran the entire length of the house allowing us to have parties where we could accommodate 100 hundred people.  We did this a few times in the six years we lived there.  Plus, we had our wedding reception there, our first daughters Christening party, and her giant first birthday party there.

It was one of the most beautiful homes I had ever lived in.  We bought it before it was built and picked out the lot, the floor plan, the fixtures, the finishes, tiles and so on.  We moved in and were married six weeks later. We were very happy there of course, and we had a lemon tree.  My first Meyer Lemon tree. It took three years to bear fruit.  I watered it, fertilized it, worried over it, and gave it liquid chelated iron until it’s leaves turned a glossy deep green.  Eventually, it bore fruit.

When we moved to cool Moraga I was at a loss. The roses and lavender I planted withered and died. I could get very little to grow here as the tulle fog from San Fransisco Bay, just 15 miles away, would descend in the summertime in what has been called San Fransisco’s natural air conditioning. Because of this I finally turned to cool weather plants like; azaleas and hydrangeas and beautiful camellias in red, pink and white.  I am able to grow rosemary, mint and thyme and many varieties of annuals; pansies and violas, vinca minor and impatiens. Tomatoes and basil do not thrive here, nor do the five rose bushes I planted long ago.  And, of course I have two beautiful lilac trees as these have been my favorite since I was a little girl growing up on the farm. In Oregon they grow wild on the side of the road, but in California they are fragile, and must be protected and planted in cool locations out of the sun and wind.

We have a large planter off our patio, it’s a focal point of our .75 acre backyard. We planted a Japanese Maple there initially, because that is what my husband had envisioned, we did a lot of gardening together back then, it was one of the interests we both shared and enjoyed doing together.

When Polly our doodle came along she used the entire tree as a chew toy and it eventually ended up in the middle of the yard roots and all.  Our gardener, Jesus, planted it’s chewed remains on the Eastside of the house where it miraculously came back to life and now thrives.  At the time Jesus asked me what I wanted to plant in it’s original place after the Japanese Maple met it’s demise.  Since my husband wasn’t around, I chose another Meyer Lemon tree.  Again, it took years to cultivate. Four years in, we believed it would never thrive.  Then it started to bloom and now it bears hundreds of lemons year round.  I do not exaggerate when I say year round.  I always have lemons. This has been a source of joy for me.

Recently, however, I am beginning to wonder why I would cultivate just lemons almost exclusively over everything else?  Lemons are tart. Lemons are associated with things that don’t work like cars.  I love my lemon tree, but what about strawberries, or raspberries? When I was a kid we had a raspberry bush outside our backdoor, I could walk by and eat them off their branches.  What about lettuce?  I could grow all sorts of vegetables, berries, and even more flowers. My obsession with lemons and making lemonade must end.

I am again beginning to compost and I will start another smaller garden by my pool house, this space gets 4 hours of sunlight and no more, and I will start new traditions and grow and cultivate what is sweet instead of tart.  A metaphor for life.

Plus, I think I want another rabbit.  I miss my rabbit.

Love and Blessings to all.

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