Although I have had a fair bit of luck with my first real attempts at nurturing my own garden, my green fingers sadly lose their magickal touch when it comes to orange trees.
B brought one with him when he came to live with me and that promptly shed its leaves and left this world, never to return. I felt awful. To console ourselves we bought a new, beautifully healthy orange tree earlier this month. I viewed this tree as a new start for a new year and I was so looking forward to seeing (and smelling) the beautifully scented blossoms in late Spring.
Two weeks in and there was a growing pile of leaves on the carpet. A few more days pass: cue mini oranges dropping with quiet thuds that seem to reverberate in my ears; little echoes of guilt at my inability to look after this special tree.
We have read countless blogs, forum posts and advice websites about orange tree care and all seem to say the following: don't over-water and keep warm. If the tree is getting lots of light but the roots aren't above at least 10 degrees C, the tree will lose its leaves (and probably die, says my brain).
Yesterday, as I watched our tree dropping its leaves, at a rate that seemed like every few minutes throughout the morning, I decided to take hasty action. I ran over to the local garden centre and asked to speak with a citrus expert. If they even had a citrus expert. Luckily they did.
She told me to keep the tree in a cool spot over winter. Around 5 degrees C will do, as long as it has loads and loads of light. Only if the tree is at risk of frost should you move it away from the light of a windowsill. Central heating is the most likely reason for my tree losing its leaves.
So I bought my tree a beautiful new terracotta pot, which should prevent frost getting to the roots, re-potted it in nourishing citrus compost and fed it with citrus feed for winter (there are different kinds for winter and summer, according to my new favourite citrus expert). I also kept whispering softly to the tree how sorry I was for not going sooner to find accurate information and how much I really hope it will be okay.
Come on, little tree.