January 5, 2014 § 2 Comments
When we moved into our new home in The Villages in August of 2003, we began to look around at the landscaping. Everyone was planting magnolias, live oaks, crepe myrtles, and palm trees – all kinds.
Palm Trees? Above the freeze line in central Florida? Were they kidding? Don’t palm trees do best in warm coastal areas? I know that Florida has three coasts: Atlantic, Gold, and Lost—Gold is the panhandle coast between Pensacola and Apalachicola, and the Lost is the west coast on the rest of the Gulf … or is it the other way around? It doesn’t matter in the least … we live nowhere near any of them!
One day Tom said, “But if we live in Florida we should plant orange trees!”
Now really! I know we live in northern grove country, but what did we know about orange trees? He was adamant, however. We started researching … make that, Tom started researching.
He talked to the garden people at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Marion County Extension, and Bob.
Bob and his wife were new friends we met when we joined a group of church-deprived CBFers (that’s Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and there were no CBF churches nearer than Orlando!)
But I digress. Back to the Great Orange Experiment:
In the long run, Bob knew a thing or two more about orange trees than the ‘experts’ at the other locations, although the Marion County Extension people came in second. He talked about space, and choice, and the care and feeding of. He also gave Tom a lesson in the variety of trees to choose from—Temple (tangerine/orange mix), Honeybell (a true Tangerine/Pumello mix), Red Navel (Cara Cara Navel from Venezuela), Navel (originally from Brazil), Valencia (a sweet, late maturing orange), Page (cross between a Clementine tangerine, and Minneola tangelo), Blood Orange (Italian/Spanish variety).
Tom couldn’t decide. Which would be best? Which would stand for the occasional 7-hour-freeze we could get during December and/or January (4-hour-freezes are okay, but the longer ones can actually kill the trees).
Finally he was ready to plant. He chose six trees, all different, each one giving a fruit-a-month (or so) from October to March/April: Navel and Red Navel fruit first; then Page and Honeybell; finally Blood Orange and Temple.
Of the six varieties, the first to mature (after two years growth) were the Page and Temple. Next came the Honeybell and Navel. The Red Navel was next, but the Blood Orange never has done well. Bummer. By the third year we were begging people to pick the oranges.
Tom calls himself an organic orchard grower. Except for the occasional special orange-food sticks, and the water they get when the sprinkler system comes on in their ‘zone’, he doesn’t do anything else to them except prune when he absolutely has to … or when they overgrow our neighbors’ yards.
Three of the trees are house-tall (lost the Page last year to a fungus and replaced it with a peach tree); while the two closest to the street are almost that tall. But look where we started! Tom picked the first orange from the Page tree in 2006!
Since the Blood Orange hasn’t produced. I think he’s going to replace it next summer with another Page, or a Valencia, or another peach tree.
We now give bags of fruit away, eat orange slices at every meal, and drink our own ‘fresh squeezed’ juice most of the year – okay, so we freeze it, but it tastes fresh when thawed!
BTW, anyone want some oranges? The Temples and Honeybells will soon be ready. Come on by the house. You can’t miss us. We’re the ones with the 5 orange trees and 1 peach tree in the front yard! Everyone else planted palm trees!