Talk about plants with a history…over eight hundred years ago Chinese agriculturists described dozens of varieties of Citrus and detailed their care and culture. Theophrastus and Virgil mentioned citrus in their writings. Explorers from Europe brought seeds to the New World. Louis XIV erected an elegant orangerie to shelter his favorite plants. Father Serra planted them in mission gardens.  

blood orange - Illustration by Helen KrayenhoffCitrons were the first citrus to reach the western world from their native India, appearing in Media and Persia about 300 B.C. So prized was this fruit in ancient times that one of the twelve labors assigned to Hercules was to obtain some of these “golden apples of the Hesperides”. The large, oblong fruit has a penetrating and long lasting fragrance often used in salads or served with fish. They are known to be high in vitamin B. The peel is most often served candied.  

From Spain and Italy come three different Blood Oranges, the most popular of the Mediterranean oranges because of the deep red coloring and sweet citrus flavor with a distinctive raspberry overtone. The aromatic Mexican Limes are as essential to bartenders as they are to Key lime pie. Citrus grandis is the appropriate botanical designation for the huge Pummelo; an important commercial crop in the Far East. The ‘Chandler’ hybrid was developed at UC Riverside. The fruit is larger and sweeter than Grapefruit and the flowers have a rather interesting woody appearance.  

Anyone who has traveled to the south of France will remember the incredible fragrance of the Bitter Oranges grown for the perfume industry. ‘Bouquet de Fleurs’ produces massive clusters of intensely aromatic white flowers followed by juicy sour oranges suitable for marmalade. For Grapefruit lovers, ‘Oro Blanco’ produces large, sweet fruit even in the Bay Area if you can provide plenty of sun and water. And with the lunar New Year coming up, consider the Kumquats; classic symbols of prosperity and good luck. The varieties ‘Meiwa’ and ‘Nagami’ are both highly ornamental and tasty treats right off the tree! 

We offer varieties of citrus in dwarf and standard forms. Almost any warm, sunny location will allow you to grow these fragrant, ornamental and often edible fruits. Many citrus are everblooming in this area and all are rather easy to grow. The grafted dwarf forms are especially handsome in containers. Some can be grown indoors. Come have a look at these versatile plants.

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