Dreaming of a kumquat tree while shoveling snow

Erin Schanen

I spend a lot of time preaching about winter being the time to reflect on the previous year’s garden and plan for this year’s garden. But in the past week I haven’t opened my garden planning notes once, even though I know it’s time to get my plan together.

 Instead, 100% of my garden-related online time over the past week has been spent researching and buying a kumquat tree. This may sound impractical for a person who spent an equal amount of time over the past week shoveling snow, but I believe it’s meant to be.

 I credit, or perhaps blame, a Danish gardener for starting me down this citrus-scented road. Claus Dalby is a garden designer and author who’s been called “the Martha Stewart of Scandinavia” and is known for his container displays. These collections include dozens of small pots staged at different levels and planted with a variety of coordinating flowers and foliage. The look is inspiring, although I admit my first thought is always that he must employ someone to water all those pots.

A couple months ago, Claus shared a container collection featuring a sea of orange tulips and pansies. But the star of the display was a small kumquat tree, resplendent with shiny green foliage and jewel-like orange fruits, growing in a perfectly moss-covered pot. I was immediately smitten and surprised to see such a tropical looking plant thriving in Denmark.

I pushed that kumquat to the back burner of my brain until the latest issue of Fine Gardening magazine showed up with an article on interesting fruit trees, and ‘Nagami’ kumquat was featured. If that’s not a sign from the gardening gods that I’m supposed to have a kumquat tree, I don’t know what is. (Footnote: I realize that by this logic all of the thousands of people who read Fine Gardening are also meant to grow a kumquat tree, but gardeners are masters of justification and it’s a skill I’m trying hard to perfect.)

My track record with citrus trees is short and definitive. The one Persian lime I grew died a quick death that was unremarkable other than for the record-setting speed it took for it to go from healthy plant to compost. I intended to overwinter it inside, but it didn’t make it that long.

Kumquat trees, hardy down to just below freezing, do well overwintering in a sunny window. ‘Nagami’ produces oval fruit that are a little over an inch long and, like all kumquats, are meant to be eaten skin and all. The skin is actually the sweet part and the pulp offers a tart punch.

The information in the above paragraph is the product of all that online research I’ve been doing because, up until a week ago, the entirety of my kumquat knowledge was that I saw a picture of one and thought it looked neat.

Call it a symptom of cabin fever or fate, but a kumquat tree is coming my way in spring. And if you know what a kumquat tastes like, let me know.



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