Zest for life!

Why we should all grow ‘agrumes’ in our gardens

Lemontree in Antibes

BBefore the days of the ubiquitous availability of everything, citrus fruits were quite rare. I don’t know about you, but during my childhood and youth in the 70’s and 80’s, citrus fruits were only available during wintertime, which is when they are at their ripest.

Today the simple joy of having something that is not always available, but only comes to us at Christmas time, has vanished. Anyway, for those of you who are reading this in northerly climes, citrus fruits will still symbolise the warmth of the southern sun.

With their bright colours, as we pour them into fruit bowls in our winter kitchens, they are a reminder of the warm season. So if citrus trees bear the ‘hesperidium’ we love so much, why is it then, that so many second home owners on the Med don’t cultivate them in their gardens? Is it because they don’t spend the winter period at their Riviera homes? Is it because they aren’t interested in them during the summer, when their green fruits are maturing? Or is it because we think of them as hard to keep, delicate and high-maintenance? Whatever the reason – plant them!

There’s not much you can do wrong, as long as they are watered well during summer and don’t get waterlogged during winter. On the Côte d’Azur, most varieties will thrive outside but steer away from lemons in most locations, they are the most frost-sensitive among the agrumes. Many varieties can weather some frost, which is why you should give them an (at least potted) chance in your northern garden too, even outside.

With their glossy leaves of intense green, they are perfect for trimming into round or oval shapes, and look classic if you choose square wooden French citrus planters. Give them a very light and fairly cold spot during winter. With a little luck you will enjoy some fruit next year! And if you don’t get any fruit? Hey ho; nothing compares to the beautiful smell of citrus flowers, for humans and bees alike.