The Cottage Smallholder

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Hardy orange trees: Calamondin


Photo: Hardy orange tree

Photo: Hardy orange tree

We are trying to become less dependant on imports to the UK. One key ingredient that we lack at the cottage are easily grown citrus fruits. We have a greenhouse which is chock-a-block in the winter so an ordinary citrus tree would have to live in the cottage for the winter months.  We reckoned that our tiny windows and poor light would make a citrus tree suffer and go straggly.

Ages ago I bought what can only be described as an expensive lemon twig on Ebay. It was given the affection that only a proper bountiful tree deserves. Kept in the greenhouse it remained a uniped with leaves for the entire summer. It tottered through the winter and eventually was rescued by a citrus tree lover who has a conservatory. Since then I’ve just looked at citrus trees at garden centres and dreamt of conservatory shaped future.

Browsing through Sutton’s special offers my eye fell on a Calamondin orange tree. This can withstand temperatures of -5c. It could have survived last winter’s deep freeze in our garden.

The offer was a good one. Thompson and Morgan had been selling similar ones for a lot more and only ship these until early March. A big outlay but if they produce citrus fruits for years to come – a bargain.

The tree was delivered this morning. It needs a bit of TLC to get over the journey – it was upside down in the box. I couldn’t resist sampling one of the little oranges that had dropped off in transit. The flavour was incredible, sweet and sour and bursting with a concentration of orange flavour that I’d never tasted before. Just a half of this diminutive fruit squeezed into a long glass of water the perfect refresher for a hot day in the garden.

We had planned to set it in the round border to replace the Japanese maple in the winter. It is three feet high (including pot). Any tips for orange tree care would be greatly appreciated as it needs to be at least another foot high to be seen over the box hedge.

Though I suspect that it will slip into the greenhouse come the first frosts. Having tasted the fruit I’d hate to lose it.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Daisy Winnie

    Oh my heart goes out to you. Those calemondins from Homebase are pricey. Mine came from Suttons and I repotted it when it arrived with a mix of sand and John Innes no3 compost. It has romped along although it does dry out quickly – it doesn’t like to stand in water but needs some every day in hot weather.

    I do hope that your tree survives. It would be worth investing in some citrus tree fertiliser too, I think.

  2. daisy_winnie

    hi i bought a calamondin plant earlier this year from homebase, it looked lovely with the little orange fruits angainst the lush green leaves, but in keeping with tradition, it had dropped all its leaves within 2 weeks and looked like something from the set of a horror movie with the fruits hanging from the bare twigs. My aunt had said that male urine helps citrus plants to grow (look at grass if you have male dogs, where they wee it’ll grow faster, unlike us females that burn it) so I instructed my partner to wee on the calemondin every evening in the garden (we have high fences for the dogs) and it started to eventually get some leaves back until i came home from work to find that the in-laws had come to do some “helpful” garden clearance and my poor little calemondin lay broken in the waste pile. The only things i have managed to grow successfully this year are tomatoes and basil. The dogs like the brocolli and its been useful for their gundog training even if its not produced anything for us.
    sar xx

  3. Beautiful fruit trees. I had one a while back, but I gave it to my father to add to his collection. His wife is Filipino, and this particular citrus (referred to as calamansi in Filipino recipes) is very much a staple of their diet. My step-brother use to eat them by the handful raw. At every meal, there’s a little saucer of calamansi juice mixed with a bit of soy sauce for dipping.

    The fruit is o.k., a little odd tasting…like lemon with a touch of tangerine…but my favorite part of the plant was the flowers. Don’t they just smell divine?

    My father’s tree is huge…tons of fruit everywhere (of course, he lives in near tropical Florida, which helps), so the perfume of the flowers is near intoxicating.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Paula

    What a great idea using a pergola as a hoop house in the winter!

    The suppkier suggests a mix of 25% sand to 75% John Innes no 3 compost as the perfect mix for citrus trees. I discovered that our new tree was root bound so have potted it on using this mix and it looks much happier.

    Hi Asproulla

    I’m very envious – trees out all year, needing no special care. Thanks for the tip about the cordial.

    Hello Casalba

    Thanks for the tips. I didn’t know that they are not very happy being moved about. Danny adores this tree as much as me so I think we’ll play safe and overwinter it in the greenhouse this year. Our greenhouse is gently heated.

    Hi Kate UK

    What bad luck after all those years.

    Yesterday I spotted hardy orange trees at Homebase for £29.99!

    Hi Bib

    I think that you would definitely need to bring it indoors.

    Hello Heather

    The recommended sandy soil means that our tree dries out very fast so I’ll keep an eye on it. Thanks for your advice.

  5. Heather

    I live in Sydney so citrus grows outside all year round. Low temperatures aren’t a problem but lack of water can sometimes be. I would just add that make sure citrus, esp. in pots gets plenty of water, and fertilise a couple of times a year.Obviously the fertiliser needs of plants in pots are different from those in the ground. Good luck. A good citrus tree is one of life’s pleasures!

  6. I’m hoping to be able to grow a lime tree in a container but wonder whether it will survive Croatian winters – we had -20 last December – even if I wrap it in fleece or bubble wrap. All advice welcomed. Thanks.

  7. kate (uk)

    My not so little orange tree staggered through the winter before this one in the unheated greenhouse, wrapped well. It staggered through this winter too- until the week of frosts we had only a week ago. It was just starting to shoot properly and the sudden cold nights after a week of real warmth finished it off. Removing it from the pot later today. But, it has been in the family at least 15 years,started off as a tiny houseplant bought by my mother, it got too large and came to live with us six years ago. so had our money’s worth from it! Tempted to start again with a hardier type…

  8. casalba

    That is one fruitful plant! I would hate to lose it also.

    We grow lemon trees on the balcony – south facing. As you know, we are in Italy, but they survived this very long and bitter winter when we had record night time temperatures of -8 degrees.

    I am absolutely no expert on this, but I understand that they are not very happy about being moved about. We cover them with fleece over the winter and just leave them be – no water, or any attention at all.

    Wishing you every success with it.

  9. Asproulla

    Here in Cyprus I have several celamondines — and in the warmer climate they stay out all year and need no care at all. I find the fruit too bitter to eat out of hand, but I made a wonderful marmalade this year. Using instinct rather than following a recipe I used same amount of sugar as fruit (all the recipe’s I found said to use 2:1). In the Philippines the juice is used to make a cordial… celamondineade?

  10. Paula

    I’m hoping to put a dwarf lime and a dwarf lemon in the ground next to the pergola we just had built, and then arrange a temporary ‘hoop house’ of PVC using the top of the pergola as part of the support. The whole thing would get covered in plastic for the winter, and then it would all be removed and stored away for the summer. That’s the plan, anyway.

    I had lemons in pots in Florida, and they didn’t do so well, which is why I want to put them in the ground. I’m hoping they’ll do better. This is not to say that citrus can’t be grown in containers; I just found it difficult.

    But good luck!

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