Friday, April 10, 2020

Looking out, looking in

The callery pear tree across the street is in peak bloom and its notoriously weak branches bend down heavily with white blossom. We avoid parking under it, in case: crack! But it is a frothy pleasure for the housebound.

The overwintering bedroom citrus trees stare out at it with envy, but shiver a little, too. Theirs has been a comfortable winter, and most will only venture out onto the terrace when evening temperatures stay above 50'F.  They are tough enough to handle some chilly nights, but it's really the shock that I try to avoid, the sudden difference between indoor and out.

The bay tree in the foreground has been trouble-free all winter.  Not a pest, not a peep. And fresh bay leaves are such a treat. I do think it will outgrow its pot fast, though. The finger lime (Citrus australasica) on the sill is doing exceptionally well and is covered in tiny, perfectly round buds. Long, skinny fruit to come, filled with sour cells.

The Meyer lemon to the left? It made wonderful fruit that I harvested in January. Preserved lemons, lemon syrup, lemon cocktails, and bitters from the fragrant flowers. And then...something went wrong. Very wrong.

I suspect root rot, which is serious and hard to recover from. It's caused by overwatering. And I am the only culprit. I may have given more water than necessary when the fruit was fat and ripe. I removed the tree from its pot in late January after its leaves kept dropping and yellowing, and its roots just fell apart, many of them just disintegrating. I sterilized the pot with boiling water, gave it fresh soil, one watering, and then kept it as dry as possible. We'll see. It is no worse, so perhaps it has a chance.

The Thai limes are well, although I have been battling scale on one tree (the picture above was taken in late November). After exceptional fruit production (over 100 fruits - the best marmalade, ever) early this year I root pruned and branch pruned both trees. They are more than a third shorter and less wide. Gulp. Why? They have to stay in their current pots to remain portable, and they also have to live outdoors on the small terrace with limited wiggle room for humans. They were top heavy and lush. Post-pruning they have put out no new growth and minimal flowers (this time last year they were dripping with blossoms). But their famous leaves are very healthy. I am curious to see what they will do outside, in a few weeks' time.

As I write this post a wild, mean wind is whipping around the corner of the building, blasting and blackening my two terrace roses' new shoots. Magnolia and cherry petals scatter across backyards. But this evening new neighbors came out to bang pots at 7pm.

And tomorrow they say the sun will shine.



  1. We're having unseasonably warm weather in Seattle. It's sunny and around 65. I've been planting lettuce and carrots and trying to dig out the wild comfrey. I thought perennial bindweed was bad, but comfrey is a thug.

    How do you grow bay? I have killed every one I've had. They've never even made it a month:-(

    1. Thuggish comfrey, interesting! Bay, well, maybe it was water? Too much or too little.

      I water this one only when the pot is bone dry. It does fill its pot fast and I have repotted it once.

    2. Likely, I over-watered then. I have a hard time letting plants dry out. Comfrey has tap roots that go to wherever the opposite side of the world is from Seattle. It makes both dandelions and annual bindweed look like sissies.

  2. Oh! I just posted a question on your other blog (Thai lime marmelade) about tip for keep your Thai lime healthy and to encourage fruit production. And now I just read this post. Likely I keep mine too cool and not fertilize enough. Do you hand pollinate the flowers? How often do you fertilize your trees, and what do you use? Do you think several trees are better for fruit production? My parent only had one in their back yard and it produced well, so I never thought I needed 2.

  3. Comment #2. I found your post on Gardenista about groing Thai lime. Thank you !


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