Friday, 26 December 2008

my designer twig

One of the very first things I wanted, when I got this garden, was a fruit salad tree.  There's a company up in New South Wales that grafts multiple types of fruit on the same tree - so you could have a tree with three types of apples, or four types of stone fruits, or five types of citrus.  What better tree to have in such a small garden?  They even graft the citrus onto dwarf root stock, so the tree itself stays small.

Having grown up in a cooler region I'm particularly excited to grow citrus fruits, since the closest I came in Oregon was an indoor potted kumquat.  So in that initial frenzy of excitement, I ordered a fruit-salad tree: a lime and tangelo.  I already have a lemon tree, the most useful of fruits, but I definitely wanted a lime.  And this year I discovered the joy of a tangelo, it's a cross between a mandarin and a grapefruit.  They're a beautiful fruit, tangy, easy to peel and easy to eat.  But they can be a little bit expensive and their season is short, so I decided I wanted to grow some of my own.

Despite the website saying six weeks, after waiting at least that long I still hadn't heard anything.  It turns out the growing season started out slowly so it was taking the trees longer to take the grafts.  And the way they make them is, they splice one of each fruit onto the parent stock, and whatever survives they sell. 

So then, MONTHS after ordering it, I got a phone call.  They had a tree with lime and tangelo, but it also had mandarin on it, so did I want to pay for the extra graft or wait until they had one with just lime and tangelo?  At this point I was so desperate I said of course I'd pay for it.  A few days later, it arrived! first surprise was just how small the thing was.  I call it my "designer twig".  I had been saving a huge pot for it so it had lots of room to grow, but it's so small that I'm starting it in a smaller pot.  And it's going to be a few years, at least, before it'll be strong enough to let it make fruit.

My next shock ... the lime graft had snapped right off during shipping.  My beautiful, precious designer twig had lost the bit that made me want to order it in the first place.

I actually had a little cry (it doesn't take much to get me crying, really) then rang the lady at the nursery.  I'm guessing this kind of thing happens every so often, because she offered me a deal - they'd send me another tree with a lime + 1 citrus, and they'd pay the shipping and the cost of the lime if I'd pay for the other graft, of my choice.  I'd been going through this circus for so long I said yes ... and in another few weeks I should be the owner of not only a mandarin/tangelo tree, but also the owner of a lime/orange tree.  Lord knows where I'm going to put them when they get bigger, but for now they're so tiny I couldn't say no.

The saga wasn't even over.  As you can see in the above photo, I put the designer twig into a good-sized pot, with some high quality potting soil.  But the leaves at the top (the mandarin part) were quite curled up ... and got curlier after a few days.  I did a bit of research, and that happens when the tree is "waterlogged" - just like my Japanese maple!

So I performed yet another tree rescue, carefully pulling the twig out of its pot.  The potting soil was so rich that it held too much moisture.  I mixed a fair amount of sand into the potting soil and re-potted it into a terracotta pot; I like the look of terracotta better, and it "breathes" more than this glazed pot.
It's perked right up since then; the curled leaves I think will stay curly, but take a look at this!  Look at this new growth just bursting away.  The mandarin is really shooting out; the tangelo below it is a little slow but it's coming along too.  Within a month it should double in size when all of that new growth comes in.


Mrs. Phillips said...

Where do you get all the research for this stuff?? I mean, I can look stuff up on the internet too, but how do you discern the best course for all your incredibly varied horticultural pursuits? I would be entirely at a loss for how to do what you're doing. But it's so fun to read about it!