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Calamondin Orange

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Plants Type: Orange

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      13.09.2011 11:20
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      all you need to know about Calamondins

      We call our plant Little Orange Tree, but this is not its official name. The Latin term is Citrus mitis, but the English and German gardeners' sites on the net I've checked use the term Calamondin (which I'm going to use from now on, it sounds nice to my ears). I'd never heard the term before and a mini survey among my English speaking online friends showed that they hadn't, either. One site informs me that the plant originates from China, another that it comes from the Philippines. I think the latter claim is more convincing as the term comes from Tagalog, the language of the Philippines. 'Kalamunding' means:
      1) a small citrus tree
      2)the small, tangerine like fruit of this tree 

      This perennial shrub is a cross between the kumquat and the tangerine. The fruit soon earned the nickname 'acid oranges' because of their taste which is both sweet but also so acid that it's hard to swallow a bit without pulling a face. It closes the holes in your socks as the Germans say. We haven't got it, however, to have a supply of fresh vitamins at all times, but because it looks nice. We've only once tasted the fruit to see if they're edible at all (yes, we are courageous!) and to find out about the taste. You won't get a list of recipes from me!

      My husband bought the Calamondin about eight years ago, we can't remember the precise year. It was meant to stand on the window sill of our living-room which it did for a while. But then it started growing and growing, now it stands in a different room in a huge pot on the floor and we've already cut off the top twigs which had reached the ceiling. When it was too big for the window sill, it stood in the front garden from spring to late autumn (once a neighbour called us to take it inside because frost was predicted). During the cold season it stood on a landing of the staircase which wasn't a good idea because our neighbour's cat, which used to sleep on the doormats of the three flats the house has, mistook it for her loo. For the two following winters we took it up to the flat on the second floor which has a sunny room. This was quite an effort. The pot contained so much soil that it was too heavy to carry it up and down, so soil was taken out and carried up and down in a bucket, and then the pot was refilled. Now we've decided to leave it in the upper room all year round.

      Such a lot of movement is certainly not what a gardener's handbook would advise you to do, but believe it or not, up to now our Calamondin has never complained. The leaves are dark green and shiny and it's full of fruit. I can't tell you precisely how many there are because I don't dare to count, I guess between 40 and 50. Last year a Russian language assistant lived with us, she is a Buryatian, i.e., the member of a Mongolian ethnic group in Eastern Siberia. When my husband showed her the tree and said proudly, "Look, how many calamondins there are!" and then began to count, she started shrieking. According either to Buryatian or Russian superstitious belief (we didn't find that out) one must never count fruit. Not tomatoes in the garden, not calamondins in the house. She didn't recall what would happen if one did, but we thought we'd rather follow her advice, better be on the safe side.

      I must admit that it's difficult to count the fruit because one characteristic of the calamondin is that it has white blossoms, tiny dark green fruits the size of a marble, ripe orange fruits the size of a table-tennis ball and everything colour-wise and size-wise in between simultaneously. Another characteristic is that the ripe calamondins rarely fall off. I may have picked up about five from the carpet over the years. This means that it is really a very attractive plant for a flat or a house. There's always something new to look at and the smell of the blossoms is lovely.

      You may want to know how we care for and maintain our Calamondin so that it's thriving so well. What we did right according to the guidelines is that the pot has a considerable size and the roots have room to expand. We're not willing, however, to replant it another time. Enough is enough!

      It gets many hours of afternoon sunlight provided the sun is shining, of course. It stands in front of the door of a balcony, when the door to the balcony is open, it gets fresh air but no draught.

      "Water your Calamondin sparingly and according to growth stage and season. It requires a thorough watering to the point of soaking the roots once every 10 days or so" is what the guidelines say. The watering process doesn't work well in our case. My husband feels responsible because he bought the Calamondin, but I'm the only one using the tiny balcony. So I do the watering every now and then when I go up to sit outside. But my husband doesn't trust me, he often thinks that I forget. So it can happen that he tells me he's done the watering the day after I did it. Once we were away for two weeks and asked the afore-mentioned girl from Siberia if she could do the watering for us, she promised but forgot. But what can I say, the tree isn't offended, it seems content with our irregular care.

      What we haven't done and will never do is feed it with high acid fertilizer as advised. If we did that, it would probably grow even more and we would have to hack a hole in the ceiling so that it can grow into the attic. We haven't had to inform ourselves what to do in case of spider mites, foliar mealy bugs, aphids and scale insects which seem to love Calamondins as we've never discovered any.

      Now we come to the last point, the mystery surrounding our specimen. Where do the Calamondins come from? According to the laws of botany, someone or something must pollinate the blossoms, right? But I can't tell you who or what is the pollinator in our house. The door of the balcony is only open when I'm sitting outside, I've never noticed bees, bumble-bees, wasps or hornets (we've got a hornets' nest in the attic) doing the job. There's no wind in the room. We've never acted as pollinators ourselves using a paintbrush to dab each blossom. Occasionally I find a dead fly on the carpet, maybe it has died after too much pollinating which isn't really the job of this species? We'll never know, but we're grateful to the unknown and diligent pollinator(s).

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