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Growing Grapefruit Under Glass

Sunday, November 16, 2014

You will remember the Greenhouse Apocalypse of November 23, 2013. For those who don't, it was when the gasline between our well and the house froze up, and everything in my greenhouse froze solid. About 3/4 of my plants died outright. 

Ach, that post. I just glanced at it and quickly closed the window. Something best forgotten, that awful night.

I mourned for a long time. And then in the dark of December, on a gray woolen day, I drove to Scott's Greenhouse in Boaz, WV, and bought everything tropical that they had that might have a fragrant blossom. Everything half-price, everything must go. I bought some kind of sad-looking jasmines, passed on the giant pink hibiscus tree, and picked up and put down a teeny tiny Ruby Red grapefruit tree, not even a foot tall, about four times before I thought, "What the hell. It'll be covered in scale and I probably won't ever get fruit off it, but it'll smell nice when it blooms."

And the buds opened in the darkest winter days, and I was transported to sunny Florida, standing on the edge of an orange grove when I was about 12, seeing my first swallow-tailed kite circling overhead as I inhaled the fragrance of citrus. Worth the $8.00. Oh yes. 

It has never gotten scale, probably because of some systemic poison in the soil applied by the grower.  I repotted it, but the protection remained. Not going to wonder too much about that. Just glad it doesn't have scale. I can hear my poor orchids groaning. Once scale sets in, it's impossible to eradicate. Yes, darling orchids, I hear you, and a repot is coming. Just ordered a king's ransom of Aussie Gold potting medium. I'll wash you yet again, spray you down with Dr. Bronners peppermint soap and rubbing alcohol, give it another try.

The plant came with a big tag with care instructions, and what I thought was an overly ambitious reverse bearing two recipes for Ruby Red grapefruit. Right. Don't think I'll need your salsa recipes, but I like your optimism.

Flower after flower opened and then fell off without setting fruit. So one day I took my pinky to the stamens and twiddled them and lo and behold! the fruit stopped falling off. I had pollinated the flowers. It set a bunch of tiny green pea-sized fruit!

Here were the fruits on January 13, 2014.

In the wisdom of a small tree burdened with too many fruits,  the plant aborted all but two, one on each side. I thought that was wise of it, to distribute the weight symmetrically. For those would get heavy.

It bloomed a couple more times, but I didn't pollinate the flowers, not wanting to overburden the plant.

Such a delight in the darkest days of winter, to walk in and smell that.

Against the snow...

I delighted in watching the little fruits grow. (note Jasminum sambac, going nuts between my fingers!)

By March 7, 2014, we had two very nice fruits the size of jawbreakers, and the plant kept trying to make more! No, little tree, you have your arms full. Just concentrate on what you have. I'm not playing bee for you until you show me you can bring these to maturity.

Stay tuned...You know I don't start a story without having a nice ending in the wings.


Looks like what you brought from Scott's Greenhouse has born fruit. Wish I could get some like that at half price :-)

Oh, oh, grapefruit indoors! I stand in awe! And how beautiful the blossoms! Cannot wait for the conclusion to this story. I tried bananas once, but alas no fruit, and disease took the plants before they were two years old.

Oh, it gave me such a delicious tingle to see the beautiful, fragrant white flowers against the backdrop of snow! Such a hopeful image! I can almost smell the inside of your greenhouse. What a wonderful perfume that would make: Julie's Greenhouse.

Posted by Anonymous November 16, 2014 at 4:03 AM

Try using Volck oil spray if you get scale - it works brilliantly for citrus, not sure about the orchids...

Great story of hope. Nature is great, isn't it?

I wish all your plant posts were the scratch and sniff kind. But I will mentally create the lovely smells, the best I can. I love your greenhouse posts - they make the day warmer and lovelier. Aunt Weezy in TX

Posted by Anonymous November 16, 2014 at 2:55 PM

:-) Just made me smile. And I could almost smell that fragrance coming from the grapefruit tree. I've always wondered what happened to that one fruit (two) that started growing LAST winter. Looking forward to the next chapter!

Gorgeous grapefruit!
For the scale on your orchids, you might consider submerging the leaves for awhile in water - worked on a bay laurel:

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