Making Way

One of the first things I did when I moved out of my parents’ home and into a place of my own was buy a few house plants. None of those plants survived for long, except one — a very hardy Kentia palm that accompanied me to every successive apartment and house for twenty-five years, including the one I live in now.

My stalwart palm tree did time in all kinds of cars, trucks, and vans. It crossed state lines. It caused me to lose security deposits by leaking on lovely beige carpets. By the time it reached 8-feet tall, it had strained the back of many a good friend. For the past ten years, it harbored a persistent, bothersome scale population.

Still, it was hard to say goodbye.


You know how it is. Sometimes you have to get rid of the old — even things you thought you would never part with — to make way for the new. I endlessly battled that damned scale infestation. I was willing to keep at it, too, because that plant stood for something. My independence. My adulthood. My happiness. Like that.

Recently, however, I flipped out for two new plants that I wanted to bring home. They are miniature, marmalade-friendly citrus trees — the calamondin and the limequat. (The latter is a key lime, kumquat cross, can you imagine?) I got to taste both at a local farmers market a few weeks ago. (Also, my buddy at What Julia Ate contributed to the fruit lust by sending me a little jar of irresistible candied calamondins this winter. We are constantly causing each other this kind of trouble.)

Even though I live in California and could keep the new trees outside, I thought they would be wonderful in our sun room. (Outside, I’ve already got seven dwarf citrus trees growing in pots — three Meyer lemons, a Eureka lemon, a Valencia orange, a Bearss lime, and a Rangpur lime. I’m just getting started.) But was I going to expose them to scale? No way. Citrus trees are vulnerable to those creepy bugs. You don’t want them.

Plus, the trees weren’t cheap.


Ha! I’m joking. They weren’t that bad, but when a local nursery’s cash register malfunctioned a few weeks ago and they tried to charge me $3 million for a flat of herbs, it made me think hard about how much money I’ve been spending on plants, soil, and pots. I wanted to protect my investment in these two trees, which cost $50 apiece. I found them at Raintree Nursery, which shipped them to me quickly and in beautiful condition. That said, it occurred to me far too late — like, a couple of hours after I first published this post — that it made no sense to order citrus fruit from a nursery in the Pacific Northwest, even if it is my favorite nursery. If I had ordered directly from the grower, Four Winds, I would have saved $38! I’ll say again . . . ouch. Lesson learned. Lesson shared.

I also noticed that some of my oldest, saddest plants were taking up space in some of my best, biggest pots. That real estate could be put to better use and I wouldn’t be tempted to dig into my wallet for additional, expensive pots that I didn’t really need. So I sacrificed my palm and several other beleaguered plants, indoors and out.

It felt good to clean up. And hopefully, by early next year, these two new trees will be festooned with shiny, tiny, orange and yellow-green globes for candying — or adding to marmalades, jams, or liqueurs. (I’m not bold enough to say I expect a full batch from either of them after just one year!) I still feel sad when I think about my old palm tree, but I have to trust that it was time to move on and that, even without it, I’ll still be a grown-up. Most of the time.

Because they’re small and mean to stay that way, limequats (left) and calamondins (right) are good options for folks who want to grow citrus and don’t live in California, Texas, or Florida. If you’ve got some space in a room with good light, you could give it a go!

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply christina d May 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    First, the photo of the “lawn waste” made me a little sad. Very final. But understandable. Second, I am EXTREMELY inspired to buy at least a calamondin. When you posted it on Facebook I immediately looked. So the trees arrived in good condition?! I’m totally game!

    Cheers to “new beginnings!”

    • Reply Shae May 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      Christina, it was sad! But I had nowhere else to put it and the darned scale had so many places to hide on that plant — there was no way I could ever get rid of it. The citrus arrived in perfect condition. Everything Raintree has sent me has been great. BUT . . . in thinking of it this evening, I realized that, for citrus trees, it would make so much more sense to go directly to the grower. I looked up Four Winds — which has an astonishing variety of dwarf citrus trees — and was shocked to see how much I would have saved by ordering direct. They’ll be my go-to company for future citrus orders, for sure.

  • Reply Cyn May 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    I think it’s good to do some housekeeping with the things we hang on to for years. Your sunroom looks just lovely! I had an emotional attachment to a ficus for the same reason. I failed it somehow (not being as plant-savvy as you.) But I would love to have a citrus tree in my house. I just hope we (the tree and I) can both survive the relationship.

    • Reply Shae May 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      Cyn: Thank you! I hope you’ll try some citrus. The trees came with a very nice brochure explaining a number of helpful things you can do to avoid killing your new acquisition. We’ll just have to see how we do. I guess my backup plan is that I know they’ll do well outside, if I have trouble with them in the house.

  • Reply Dawn May 13, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Bittersweet isn’t it? I am, however, in complete envy of your citrus “grove”. I have two dwarf citrus trees that I’ve had for nearly 20 years (moving with me in similar fashion). I don’t even know exactly what they are any more, but hopefully that will be remedied in the near future as for the first time ever they flowered on Christmas and now have fruits! And thanks for the Raintree link – amazing stuff! (But I think my husband will be less than thrilled that I have a new website to find trees that need to be kept in the house.)

    • Reply Shae May 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm

      Dawn, now you’ve got me curious. You’ll have to come back and tell me when you figure out what they are! Raintree is an amazing resource. Be sure to bookmark Four Winds, too — my late catch on ordering citrus direct from the grower. And I’ll tell you, I got a little bit of a raised eyebrow when I carried my big box into the house. :-)

  • Reply tigress May 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I love fruit trees! so great to see your citrus garden grow! I gave my indoor citrus trees away, I was just not having good luck with them. I gave them to a better home as I realized that I am not so much an indoor grower. But I have high hopes for my newly planted stone fruit orchard!

    • Reply Shae May 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm

      Oh, I can’t wait to hear how your stone fruit grows! We can’t do much of that here in our little microclimate. In consolation, I’m surrounding myself — inside and out — with what we can do. Someday I’d like to find out from you what varieties of citrus you tried to grow indoors and how that went. (Or didn’t go.) I’d read that these two varieties were particularly suited to indoor life, but I don’t have any experience with it yet.

  • Reply Kate May 13, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    *Bookmarks Raintree for future use when she has a room with lots of light* Definitely adding that limequat to my wishlist!

    • Reply Shae May 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm

      Kate: Yay! Do it, but bookmark Four Winds instead. I was a little slow to figure out who the grower is — and that you can save a whole bunch of money by ordering directly.

  • Reply RedGardenClogs May 14, 2011 at 5:11 am

    Sad and bittersweet, yes – but it is so important, I think, to let go! I am equally guilty of attaching meaning to things and hanging on – and plants being living things just makes it even harder! But moving on is important, and letting go it too, and sometimes it is just time to. Especially when it opens the door for other things ( plants !) that could make good use of that space. Good for you! The new plants are gorgeous – can’t wait to see how they do!

  • Reply Sara May 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

    It’s a wonderful thing that there are so many citrus varieties out there I’ve never heard of! You are now causing me trouble by pointing out the varieties that are good indoors. I’m scouting out our sunroom to see if there’s a good spot for these guys (in particular, where 1 and 3 year old boys will not be getting into it…)

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse May 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Your little trees look very happy in your sun room. I just ate my first kumquat a few days ago (what took me so long?) and ate the best kumquat gelato earlier today. I know you are going to make some fabulous marmalades.

  • Reply meg May 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I want to grow citrus so bad I can’t stand it… now that I have at least a mini (very mini) greenhouse I can try a dwarf tree. Hmm…

  • Reply Ashley May 17, 2011 at 7:59 am

    When I moved into my first place I was given a hanging plant named Ned (a joking substitute for a pet). He lived with me for years and traveled to apartments all over the country. I just handed him over to a new home and it was surprising how much of a pet he had really become.

  • Reply Julia May 18, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I love them! And yes, it’s sad. When I first moved into my house I jammed random stuff in everywhere. Now that I have a better idea of what’s going on, I look around and see many, many plants that will need to move. Somewhere. I wonder if you’re going to make calamondin confit? (Plotting…)

  • Reply tigress May 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    shae – here’s the lo down on my 3 little citrus trees:

    i had a kafir lime – which was the only one that was looking quite lovely when i gave it away. no limes but it grew quite big and the leaves were lush. then i had a meyer – i did get 3 lemons but man the leaves just kept falling off until it was just a poor little stick. same for my lime (some sort of mexican lime) i was able to harvest 3 fruits but the leaves just would not stay on and it was getting so worse for wear. part of the problem was my traveling a lot and then the move to the berkshires for 1/2 a year. i figured out that i do best at growing things with help from mother nature, i.e. outside. …but they all three went to a good home, and last i checked they were doing much better! :)

  • Leave a Reply