It was a little over a year ago that I made a trip to Toledo with the specific intent of purchasing a Meyer lemon tree (Citrus x meyeri 'Improved'). Because I made a silly assumption, that trip didn't have the ending I anticipated. You know what they say about assuming.
However, being a good sport, I had a good laugh over it all and the opportunity to purchase a decent-sized Meyer lemon plant came several months later. And now I find myself with two in my living room. One of them isn't mine; it's my mom's and I'm keeping it over the winter for her. She thinks she's getting it back come spring.
|See the sleeping kitty?|
|12 August 2011|
|Just beginning to turn yellow...|
The Meyer lemon is the result of a cross between a traditional lemon and either a mandarin or common orange and because of this, it's sweeter than a traditional lemon. It's Chinese in origin and was introduced in the United States in 1908. Its use by chef Alice Waters and Martha Stewart are thought to be responsible for its rise in popularity.
|Meyer lemon bloom|
The Meyer lemons we grow today are actually 'Improved' Meyer lemons. Many of the original plants were found to carry a virus in the 1940s and most were destroyed so that they didn't infect other citrus fruit trees. In the 1950s, a virus-free version was found and in 1975, the 'Improved' Meyer lemon was introduced for sale.¹
I read a fun book earlier this winter called Paradise Under Glass by Ruth Kassinger, which I reviewed here. I learned that conservatories and greenhouses got their start as "orangeries" - a place for gardeners to keep their citrus trees in the winter in colder climates. When glass became available in larger sizes, this allowed it to be used in the construction of elaborate buildings, with the first ones being built in Italy in the 16th century.
The first known orangery in the U.S. was thought to be in Annapolis, Maryland, when it was discovered during excavation of Calvert House, once home to the governors of that state. It was about 10 feet square and estimated to have been constructed around 1770. What remains of it can be seen today through a glass floor at Governor Calvert House, a luxury hotel on the original site.²
A more detailed history of orangeries can be found here.
|An early Dutch orangerie (1779) (Wikimedia)|
¹Wikipedia, Meyer lemon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meyer_lemon
²Richmond Oak Conservatories Ltd., Orangeries - A History of the Orangery: http://www.oakconservatories.co.uk/orangeries.htm