Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Hardy Orange: Spring Buds of Flowers & Leaves

Spring, the literal season.  Day by day, even hour by hour, the garden leaps upward onto the stage.

 

All of a sudden, bulbs burst into flower.  Overnight, Solomon's Seal is a foot tall.  And here, out of nowhere on this hot and sunny day in late April, the flower buds of the hardy orange have popped like pop-corn.

 

poncirus-trifoliata-flower-buds-042911-640

 

I can't think of a display of Spring buds that's more piercing—and I don't just mean those stilletto spikes.  But yes, could they be more fierce, more hostile, more "Back off, Bub—or lose a pint—and fast"?  (That cinder-like thing in the back is one of last year's oranges, trapped all Winter in the impenetrable thorny labyrinth.)

 

And yet each Spring, out of the nearly featureless crotches at the base of each thorn and so protected against all comers in a hostile world, the delicate, hopeful buds emerge.  They're all about entreating and amusing the world.  Their message is "Please, come for a visit."  The bush—this hardy orange that can't do enough to keep the entire soft-flesh world at bay—has a gigantic change of heart.  No, the bloodthirsty thorns are still there and are still fully visible: The flowers may be numerous but they're not large, and don't project farther out than the thorns.  The bush stays honest and, literally, up-front about its Greta Garbo side: "I vant to be alone."  But at least it's now eager to show a pretty face to the world even so. 

 

So, yes, the hardy orange in Spring:  A piercing experience even if you don't lose any actual blood.  It's the bush that shows that you can still "vant to be alone" even when you're also bringing beauty into the world, even when you're also a hardworking member of the (garden) community.  Even, in the case of this particular hardy orange topiary, when you're the star of the community.

 

 

poncirus-trifoliata-leaf-buds-640

 

Hardy oranges don't just produce lovely flowers in Spring: The season's new foliage also appears—springs, as if by magic—from the safety at the base of the thorns.  I can't make sense of when a given crotch sprouts into a bud or into leaves.  Yes, the flower buds are mostly at the top of the bush, but plenty of twigs at the top have sprouted leaves only.  And while the bush got an epic prune-back last year—see the various movies in Gardening to Do and Plants to Try—the few twigs that did escape the loppers then are no more likely to produce leaves or flowers now than the ones that didn't. 

 

Buds or leaves?  It's a heads-or-tails choice.  Either a given growth point produces a flower or it produces some leaves.  It's not an option for the blossom to also have a new spray of leaves arising from its base.  Nor for the new season's twiggy growth that accompanies those new leaves to start producing its own flower buds in July.

 

It's the one choice only: leaves or buds.  Leaves or buds.  Binary, then, like every computer, where each little bit of data is actually one of only two digits: a One or a Zero.  Hundreds, thousands, and millions of those Ones and Zeros, and you've got everything on your laptop—even, of course, the pictures and words of LouisThePlantGeek.com, let alone the responsive and powerful software that brings all of it to life.

 

This hardy orange is also the "story" of years and years of hundreds and hundreds of Ones or Zeros, ones and zeros.  Does a given bud turn into a flower and then into fruit with seeds that can reproduce the species?  Or does it turn into leaves and the new twigs from which they sprout, to make this one individual of the species grow larger season by season? 

 

One result of all of these choices is the entire individual organism they created, the entire hardy orange bush in my garden.  Without that bush, there wouldn't have been the movies and the My & My Garden ponderings on Geek.  So this hardy orange, this individual of a deeply hostile species, has nonetheless changed my garden, changed me, helped inspire LouisThePlantGeek, and so changed (or at least entertained) all of you.  Perhaps not in large ways, and yes, sometimes in very painful ways.  (*#@%+&*, those thorns!)  But change has indeed happened.

 

As far as possible, my goal is that the change is good.  Spring buds on a thorny bush?  They've the potential to change the world.

 

 

 

Here's how to change your world, by growing a hardy orange:

 

Latin Name

Poncirus trifoliata

Common Name

Hardy orange

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous flowering shrub or small tree with small green leaves in threes.

Hardiness

Zones 6 - 10

Habit

Broadly upright, with one or several trunks.  Densely twiggy growth, green-barked when young, studded with fierce green thorns to four (!) inches long. 

Rate of Growth

Fast when happy

Size in ten years

Twelve feet high, taller in milder climates.

Texture

Dense and bulky. 

Grown for

Year-round appeal: White flowers (without fragrance, alas) in early Spring; then small green leaves in threes; then colorful (but small and pithy) small orange citrus fruit; then yellow Fall foliage; then, in Winter, the full reveal of the dense twigginess and startlingly large green thorns. 

Flowering season

Early Spring, just before the leaves emerge.

Culture

All possible heat and sun.  Any reasonable soil.

How to handle it

Pruned into a buffalo-proof hedge.  Limbed up into a small ornamental tree.  Clipped and tied into topiary or an espalier.

Downsides

The thorns are as dangerous as those of any cactus.  Wear protective glasses and thick-soled shoes when working on this plant.  When pruning, take care to put each clipping directly into the wheelbarrow or basket; stray clippings would be painful to "discover" when kneeling or weeding later in the season.  Self-seeds modestly, but be alert.

Variants

'Flying Dragon' has contorted stems and even thorns.  Not substantially more interesting than the species itself, but often more available.

Availability

Because this plant is difficult to handle, it's generally available only at specialty nurseries or on-line.

Propagation

Seeds or cuttings

Native habitat

China


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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