Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Martha Parents

I purchased my first lemon tree earlier this year. My husband and I moved a fountain out of the way because we wanted this lemon tree to have the perfect plot in the center of our garden.

The day we brought Little Lemon home, I was so excited. His leaves were perfect. He smelled so good! And he fit right into the little hole we had dug like he was meant to be there.

I had such high hopes. Sometimes I watched him from my office window, just to check how he was doing.

But Little Lemon wasn't performing as I'd hoped. His growth was stunted. He wouldn't produce any buds, much less lemons.

What was I doing wrong?

My husband and I adjusted the watering. First more. Then less. We reconditioned the soil. We wanted to give him the very best after all.

Was it his friends? We'd planted the most advantageous companion plants nearby to discourage pests but maybe there were better options out there. Who knew what kind of effect they were having on him when we weren't watching!

Then there was that issue of where we lived. It wasn't the right kind of neighborhood, not for raising lemon trees. Too much saltwater. Not enough sun. But we loved Little Lemon and gave him every possible thing needed to succeed. Wasn't that enough?

The worst was other owners. The ones with trees with mature branches bowing under heavy fruit. I hid my envy while sipping perfectly tart lemonade as they bemoaned how their lemon tree's production levels meant they could hardly use all the lemons, so why didn't I take a few? As if I wanted their pity lemons from their overachieving tree!

Part of me pretended I was okay with Little Lemon's low production levels. After all, he was still alive and otherwise thriving. He was green and growing. Wasn't that enough? But deep down, for me, it wasn't.

When people asked me how my garden was, I would rave about my potato harvest, my blooming Gala apple tree but skim over Little Lemon, slightly ashamed. Whenever I would confess my worries, the ensuing advice grated my nerves. Everyone had a story about some other person they knew with a poor Lemon Tree. Everyone had some urban legend to share with some piece of advice. Spray the leaves. More mulch. Like we hadn't thought of it already.

I wondered what it would be like if I had gotten another Lemon Tree instead. In my deepest, darkest thoughts, I pictured switching him out with another, more mature Lemon Tree already in the midst of a production cycle.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit I run out every Sunday and check under the leaves, hoping for the best. My husband is convinced he'll pull through, but I've given up hope. Maybe my high expectations were too much pressure.

What if he doesn't want to carry all those heavy lemons? What if he doesn't want to be plucked? He doesn't exist for my own personal tart consumption, after all. He's still a happy little tree, and my selfish expectations aside, he's doing fine.

* These are seriously thoughts I've had about my lemon tree. I don't mean to imply these feelings are in any way comparable to the actual feelings one would have for a child, but I don't have any children, so here you go instead! *


Rachael Herron said...

Oh, Martha. This is RICH and you deserve the very best lemons. And someday, when they're grown, they'll appreciate you.

Jill said...

But a happy lemon tree is better than a merely productive lemon tree. :)

Sophie Littlefield said...

this was wonderful. Thank you for making me smile big. and thank you even more for knowing that your little tree has its own journey. as someone raising a couple of unusual lemons myself, i can tell you that Little Lemon has much to teach you :)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Patience is a required virtue for parenting, I would imagine. Not having kids, I say that purely observationally. I do have lemons, though, and I predict your patience will be rewarded. When Little Lemon is ready. :)

Anonymous said...

I thought lemon trees took years before they started producing fruit? Only Meyer lemon trees?

anyway, speaking as someone who ALWAYS picks the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, I'm rooting for LL all the way!

P.S. My friend the plant lady says half of all transplants die. So LL has already beaten the odds!

L.G.C. Smith said...

My dad is always planting new citrus trees, meyer lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, etc. Most of them seem to get off to a really slow start. Where we live they always seem to get frozen into near oblivion in their first year or three, then make a miracle comeback. Even the meyer lemons out at my sister's farm struggled for a long time. They still look kind of pathetic, and they're got to be at least six years old.

One year the rats ate most of the bark off my young meyer lemon. It hung on and finally got really big. I don't know how it survived, but it produces up a storm. Now. Once our citrus trees get big enough, and that seems to be different for each individual tree, they flourish. Before that? Little Lemon is not alone in forging its own path.

Gigi Pandian said...

We're going to plant our very own lemon tree soon, too. I TELL myself I have no expectations from it, but we'll see...

Martha Flynn said...

If LL ever decides to lemon up, it's gonna be a lemonade party, let me assure you.

And thanks everyone - Lynne especially since you are totally are resident expert on this topic!