grapefruit

Everyday Gardeners

Love a Tree Day

Today’s post is in honor of Love a Tree Day, which happens on May 16th every year. (Who knew?) I would write about my favorite tree, but that’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I have dozens of favorites.

With ash trees under attack by emerald ash borer, American elms barely hanging on against Dutch elm disease, and American chestnuts all but wiped out by chestnut blight, I feel that it’s important to create diversity by planting a wide variety of trees.

I’ve taken that to heart in my own landscape. On my half-acre lot I have planted the following trees: a callery pear, a serviceberry, five Alberta spruces, three Austrian pines, three Eastern white pines, a sweetbay magnolia, a Japanese tree lilac, a goldenrain tree, five arborvitaes, eight upright junipers, a dawn redwood, a Vanderwolf limber pine, a black gum, a blue Colorado spruce, a red maple, a weeping European beech, an Eastern redbud, a shingle oak, a ginkgo, a Swiss stone pine, a kousa dogwood, and I’ve allowed a squirrel-seeded bur oak to grow in one of the perennial beds.

This doesn’t even count the trees growing in containers: two Meyer lemons, a Valencia orange, an Oroblanco grapefruit, two bay laurels, and various dwarf conifers.

I’ll admit to punishing several “problem children”. Self-seeded cottonwoods, hackberries, chokecherries, box elders, and willows are removed from my flowerbeds where they all too often take root. I also dig out sprouting black walnuts that the ambitious squirrels bury in the planting beds.

After six years of planting, I think that my lot is about full enough of trees. I still want sunny areas for growing veggies and sun-loving flowers. So from now on, new trees will have to be dwarf. I’m envisioning dwarf conifers in a new rock garden…..


Denny Schrock

scents of citrus

My calamondin orange is famous! This photo of it appears in the February issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, in Debra Prinzing’s column, Debra’s Garden. I love how the morning light streams in through the sidelight windows next to the front door, highlighting the orange orbs and giving a golden glow to the foliage.

My indoor citrus grove also includes two Meyer lemons, a dwarf orange tree, and an Oroblanco grapefruit tree. These citrus trees spend most of the winter in my attached greenhouse. This week I noticed that the plants are loaded with flower buds. (One Meyer lemon has already started to bloom.) On sunny days, I open the  door into the greenhouse, letting the warm, moist greenhouse air drift indoors. A bonus is the scent of citrus blossoms that fills the house. What better way to lift spirits on a cold winter day than to breathe in the heady aroma of orange blossoms?

By mid-March the citrus trees get moved out of the greenhouse to make room for flower and vegetable seedlings that must be transplanted from their seed germination chamber. (If I could control my plant addiction, the citrus trees wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of a late winter move!) Usually the trees reside in the garage for a few weeks until the weather warms. Then, they’re moved to the parking pad next to the garage, in a sunny microclimate facing southeast, protected from cold northwest winds. On frosty nights they get wheeled back into the garage. I find that this routine allows me to harvest ripe fruits the following December or January.

I can’t always escape Iowa winters, but my orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees let me experience a touch of the tropics no matter how nasty the winter weather becomes.