" To plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world " Russell Page

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Plant Profiles: The Caviar Lime

Oh dear, we thought we have seen (and grown) it all... the Buddha Hand Citrus( Citrus Medica Digitata), the Kaffir Limes ( citrus Hystrix) and the fashionable Meyer's Lemons! But alas there is a charming little newcomer trying to get into our botanical homes. The Caviar Lime or Finger Lime, Citrus australasica (syn. Microcitrus australasica).
Totally unknown to most gardeners and fruit lovers, this citrus species starts to make its timid entry on the European and US market.

We are talking about a relatively tiny, very thorny shrub or small tree of lowland subtropical rain forest and dry rain forest in the coastal border region of Queensland and NSW in Australia.
The plant is 2–7 metres in height. Leaves are small and glabrous, 1–6 cm long and 3–25 mm wide. Flowers are white, flushed with purple, with 6–9 mm long petals and not very showy. 
"The seven species of Citrus previously known as Microcitrus are the result of millions of years of slow evolution from a primitive ancestral types. This type may have resembled C. warburgiana, the New Guinea species, which has small leaves and small, nearly spherical fruits. From such an ancestral form, one line of evolution produced the so-called native orange, round lime, or Dooja (C. australis), that grows to a large tree and has subglobose fruits much larger than those of C. warburgiana, with long, slender, pointed, more or less twisted pulp-vesicles. Another line of evolution culminated in C. inodora and C. maideniana, highly specialized forms showing adaptations to tropical rain forests, with large leaves and paired spines; a third line of evolution led to the small-leaved species C. australasica and C. garrawayae, both with long-ovoid or very elongated cylindric fruits.
These remarkable citrus fruits are extremely interesting, in that they show how evolution has proceeded in regions isolated as Australia and New Guinea have been during the last twenty or thirty million years since they were cut off from all other land masses. The evolution of other citrus fruits is not so easily followed, since Citrus, Fortunella, and Poncirus did not originate in regions that were geographically isolated in definitely dated geologic eras. The group contains seven species, five of which are native to Australia with the other two found in New Guinea. The Australian species occur in rainforests and their margins from Cape York Peninsula south to the northern rivers of New South Wales. They produce small, round or finger-shaped fruit, with a pleasant but very acid juice. 
They have a close relationship with conventional citrus fruit in the genus Citrus. Australian native citrus species are able to hybridise with a range of other citrus species. This ability, along with  drought and salinity tolerance and disease resistance, has long attracted the interest of citrus researchers and breeders. Improved selections and hybrids of native citrus also have potential in their own right for commercial production. Fruit is used in a range of sweet and savoury processed products, such as marmalades and sauces, and is in demand by chefs producing ‘Australian Native Cuisine’ dishes. Traditionally most fruit has been harvested from the wild. Commercial orchard production  began in the last decades of the twentieth century ."
source: http://users.kymp.net/citruspages/australian.html#finger

The fruits though are real fun! Cylindrical, 4–10 cm long, sometimes slightly curved, coming in different colours and they look like fingers or tiny sausages.The skin can be green, orange, yellow or purplish red, depending on the type and has a distinctive bush aroma.
The fun comes when you cut the fruit  and discover the juicy, round pearls which are similar to caviar in size and texture. The colour of these pearls ranges from white to pink, lime green and yellow. When you bite into the finger lime pearls, they burst in your mouth, releasing their tangy lime flavour.

For more information about the Microcitrus and other types of citrus trees you can browse these excellent pages: 
Vivaio Oscar Tintori: http://www.oscartintori.it/
Pepinieres Bache: http://site.plantes-web.fr/baches/1292/boutique/49819/citrus_australasica.htm
Jardin Botanico Mundani from Mallorca: http://jardin-mundani.com/

Citrus Pages: http://users.kymp.net/citruspages/home.html

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why don't you: Spring preparations

Decades ago, the fabulous and frivolous Diana Vreeland (fashion editor for Bazaar and US Vogue - yesss there have been fashion geniuses looong before AW!) inaugurated a funny and quite bizarre column called Why don't you. Hopping Mrs Vreeland doesn't mind I will borrow her title and open a new rubric for gardening tips.

Do you feel the same itching and tickling in your gardening fingers? I guess you too can't wait any longer to get out there and poke at the green tips of tulips and daffs and crocuses, huh?
Well, we're getting there - the yearly mystery of the spring awakening is slowly taking control of our gardens and terraces again! And boy, is that a nice feeling!

But before we jump again into the glorious dirt, let us still calm a little and recapitulate some nice and useful tips that might come handy one day!

1. Transform your long handled garden tools into measuring sticks by writing/etching/painting (whatever you feel like) a measuring tape on the handle. Might spare you the second way back into the tool shed when you will need to measure something...

2. Put coffee filters, even used ones, into your small pots in order to keep the soil from leaking out. That's a smart one, hm? Thank you Pinterest...

3. Use coffee grounds and finely broiled egg shells as slug protection around plants. It is not 100% infallible, but it is ecological and provides some organic food as well.

4. Make rooting booster solution for cuttings by macerating willow branches in water, those furry pussy willow branches you put in your vase or any other type of willow you prune. Haven't tried that out yet, but given the price of rooting hormones it's worth a try.

5. Create a double mulching barrier with wetted old newspapers (guess the roses and larks won't mind the old headlines) before you cover everything nicely with bark or any other mulching material you use.

6. Do please remember to sterilise your scissors before pruning those beloved and often pricey roses, since some carry viruses which can infect other roses... I learned this on my own expenses... and nothing saddens me more than to see a sick and lingering rose.

7. Use the resulting branches of the spring pruning to create protective cages or supports for other sprouting plants. Keep in mind that some plants ( willows and hazel) root very easily, so control before you get lost in a willow forest...

8. If the lucky you happens to own a garden shed, try using a funnel attached to the wall to prevent all the cords and wires from tangling.

9. Use an old and cheap lamp cage as a climbing support for fast growing plants like ivy and small growing clematis. It would not be a bad idea to use a pot with water reserve in order to make watering easy and more effective. You can make quick "fake" but very effective topiary while you wait for those boxes to grow.
10. If anything else fails, give your plants a little moral encouragement...

The depicted images are not mine (courtesy of Pinterest again), but are lovely and you can easily find the sources on my pinterest board "Chlorophyll & Co"