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MailTribune.com
  • Sun in the Garden

  • Just as winter settles in for the long, dark haul, suddenly it's citrus season. The colorful, sweet-smelling fruits are a pleasant reminder that somewhere the sun is still shining.
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  • Just as winter settles in for the long, dark haul, suddenly it's citrus season. The colorful, sweet-smelling fruits are a pleasant reminder that somewhere the sun is still shining.
    So why not grow your own bit of winter sunshine? Rogue Valley citrus enthusiast Tom Ponder says that growing citrus indoors is a fun hobby with some sweet perks. Citrus trees make fragrant, decorative indoor plants that also produce a small amount of fruit. They can be kept as small bonsai shrubs and placed in a south-facing window, or grown outdoors and sheltered from the most intense freezes. Ponder and his wife, Glenda, grow more than 15 varieties of citrus in two small, crowded greenhouses at their Abbie Lane Farm near Gold Hill. The trees are productive enough that they sell small quantities of Meyer lemons, finger limes and kaffir limes through the winter and early spring, as well as seedlings.
    Growing citrus indoors is not a new fad of the petroleum age. Italians introduced the practice back in the 13th century, moving potted plants into designated rooms called limonaie not only to protect the plants from chill, but so royalty could enjoy the delicate blooms and ambrosial aroma of winter flowering.
    King Charles VIII introduced the limonaie to French aristocracy, and from there the indoor citrus garden, or orangery, became a must-have for the European elite.
    George Washington built an orangery at Mount Vernon, and until an 1867 fire, U.S. presidents enjoyed an orangery appended to the White House.
    The Italians may have been on to something else, too. According to studies by the Mayo Clinic, just the smell of grapefruits, oranges and lemons can ease anxiety and depression. It's no wonder a glass of fresh orange juice on a cold, gloomy morning is like a shot of summer.
    In recent years, personal orangeries have been making a comeback, along with interest in varieties slightly more exotic than the standard Navel or Valencia. Martha Stewart wrote about her own miniature orangery in a 2009 blog post featuring a Striped Lemonade lemon, and since then most major gardening magazines have written about indoor citrus plants.
    Many recommend the Meyer lemon, a sweet, juicy lemon making a pricey appearance at grocery stores. It's considered relatively cold hardy, and with its fragrant white and purple flowers, an attractive choice for bonsai.
    Last year, the Ponders sold more than 50 citrus seedlings at the Master Gardener's Spring Garden Fair in Central Point, most of them Meyer lemons.
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