Calamondin is a Special Citrus

calamondin (Citrofortunella mitis)

calamondin (Citrofortunella mitis)

Lately, I have noticed a few calamondin trees in container gardens. Noticed is an understatement. I could just as easily have said that I heard horticultural shouts of joy coming from the calamondin trees that I encountered. These trees are pure exuberance.
You may wonder what brings me to talk about citrus, since calamondin is an outstanding example of one, in the middle of winter. True, we have had some warmer than average weather lately and yet, even if it were freezing, calamondin trees would not mind. Calamondins are hardy to 20 degrees, which means they can grow all the way up into the Antelope Valley, as long as they have some overhead protection on very cold nights in that area.
The calamondin (Citrofortunella mitis), when mature, produces hundreds of orange or red-orange fruit, between 1 and 2 inches in size, in the course of a year. You may mistake a calamondin for a kumquat, another highly cold-tolerant, small-fruited citrus.
The difference between them is that kumquats are elongated capsules as compared to the more spherical calamondins. Also, kumquat trees are weaker than calamondins. Kumquat trees (Fortunella margarita) seldom live more than five or six years while calamondins may endure twice as many years or longer. Aside from their outstanding container specimen status, you can also keep calamondin trees trimmed into a highly decorative hedge. Mature calamondin height is six to 25 feet.
Calamondin trees, in the manner of lemon and lime trees, differ from oranges, grapefruits and tangerines, in bearing flowers and fruit throughout the year.
Like lemons and limes, calamondins are acerbic and are not usually eaten fresh, but are utilized in cooking, in deserts and drinks. Both calamondin fruit and flowers are highly aromatic and the plants are tolerant of somewhat heavy soil, in contrast to citrus in general, whose demand for fast-draining soil is well-known.
Most people love lobelia and, appropriately, you can find it at the nursery throughout the year. Lobelia really is hard to resist. It is adaptable to most soil and climatic conditions and may be grown in full sun during winter to partial shade in summer. Thus, it is the perfect plant for growing under tall and airy deciduous trees such as sycamore and Chinese elm.
Lobelia is a demure botanical wonder that grows into a tidy globe of dark blue, bell-shaped flowers. It does well in mixed flower beds, as an edging plant in perennial borders, and is probably the best plant you can find for hanging baskets and containers. It will not grow more than 8 inches tall.
One of lobelia’s virtues is its slow growth rate. Lobelia will hold up well for at least four months and its good looks may persist for six months or beyond, depending on the weather. If it should stop flowering, cut it back by half and wait for rebloom.
Two notes of caution are in order for Valley gardeners regarding lobelia. First, it needs sun protection as temperatures warm; second, it requires above-average soil moisture so keep it mulched. Additionally, by planting it in partial sun, you can extend the life of lobelia in the summer garden.
Although lobelia is most well-known for its dark, marine blue varieties, it is also available in light blue, white, violet and a recently introduced carmine.
You must see lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus) to appreciate it. It glows like the sun, unlike anything seen here on earth, an orange orb from outer space that came to rest in the garden.
Its flower petals hang down like the fringe on a lion’s tail. Its leaves are a vivid, shining, deep emerald green.
Once established, lion’s tail does not need water more than twice a month. It combines well aesthetically with drought-tolerant plants that have violet-colored flowers, including lavender, catmint, Cleveland sage and trailing lantana.
Like virtually all of the plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae), lion’s tail is easy to propagate from shoot cuttings. Remove flowerless shoots that are 4 to 6 inches long and, after rubbing off their bottom leaves, insert them into a mix that is half sand and half peat moss.
Butter-yellow flowered Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa), like lion’s tail (Leonotis Leonurus), can bloom at almost any time as long as faded flowering shoots are snipped off at regular intervals. Additionally, every other year or so, these plants should be cut back to within 6 inches of the ground. If you forget to do this, the presence of mealybugs – those sticky white insects, sometimes stuck together in a cottony mass, that cling to stems and leaves – will remind you to do so.
Mealybugs are an indication that growth in a plant is too dense, that insufficient light is reaching the interior of a plant, or that the air circulation around and through a plant is inadequate. Many species of acacia, if they are in any way deprived of the good light that is their due, will also become infested with mealybugs.
Unlike most self-sowing flowers you bring home from the nursery, the second generation of floss flower (Ageraturm houstonianum) is actually more interesting that the first. The floss flowers you bring home are tight little lavender mauve cushions that are pleasant enough. However, if you should allow them to go to seed and self-sow, you will soon be privileged with a second crop of plants that have more character than the first, growing up to 2 feet tall with large flower clusters.
Tip of the week
For a horticultural special effect, plant flat wattle (Acacia glaucoptera). Yes, you will eventually get your fair share of tiny powder-puff lemon yellow flowers for which acacias are famous. However, it’s the leaves that will probably give you the greatest delight. In truth, the plant has no true leaves but only blue-gray, whimsical, vegetative appendages that may be considered either stemlike leaves (phyllodes) or leaflike stems (cladodes).

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