There are a range of benefits/ virtues that citrus trees can bring to your garden.

As a landscaper, I find them extremely rewarding plants to deal with because: 

  1. They can easily produce you bucketfulls of beautiful tasty fresh citrus fruit for a large period of the year.
  2. In spring they are covered in masses of sweetly fragrant white flowers and produce a very pleasant tropical type fragrance .
  3. Citrus trees grown in a large pot/container are the perfect plant for a very small urban patio and are just as accommodating on a Kiwi quarter acre site in the back garden.
  4. Evergreen, shiny dark green foliage, looking attractive all year round and needing very little main- tenance.
  5. Amazingly adaptable as to the ways you can train/shape them. It wasn't so long ago that when gardeners purchased a citrus tree they planted it in their garden or in a pot and virtually left it to shape itself. But nowadays its not uncommon to see citrus trees being trained to fit a particular site.We call this topiary, and citrus make fantastic standards and espaliering against a wall or trellis look amazing when they covered in fruit all winter or in flower in the spring. 

In today's column I want to focus on shaping citrus trees.

CONTAINER GARDENING WITH CITRUS Some of the smaller growing citrus trees - mandarins, lemons, limes, limequats, oranges - grow superbly in containers on the patio. Just make sure you water and feed regularly over the summer months. This is essential because I often tell my clients that citrus trees are the hungriest plants in your garden, they just love to be continually fed.

Also make sure the container is large enough to accommodate the tree for at least three years. This will enable the tree to reward you yearly with a good crop of tasty fruit.

When buying a potting mix to plant your citrus into, it's advisable to purchase a high quality mix that has water storage granules in it if possible and it's a necessity that it also has a good supply of slow release fertiliser. Don't skimp and buy the cheapest mix, because your citrus will very quickly run out of nutrients which will lead to a poor crop of fruit and severe yellowing of the foliage.

ESPALIERED CITRUS This means you have trained the plants main branches to fit snuggly against a wall or trellis. All citrus trees are happy being grown in this fashion. If you want to train the tree yourself, start with a young speci- men and trim the front facing branches with hedgeclippers to encourage sideways growth.You will find that an espaliered tree grown in this manner will provide just as good a crop as a traditional round shaped tree.

STANDARDISED CITRUS These are citrus that have been grown with a round shaped head of foliage on a straight stem. If you are wanting to try this yourself, just get a young plant and tie the main stem to a stake, trim off the side branches encouraging the upright growth. When the stem is of the required height, just take out the tip of the plant to encourage a head of the plant to develop, as can be seen in the photo on this page. A topiaried citrus done in this fashion will look amazing with very little effort to keep it in this manner.

HEDGING CITRUS I have very successfully hedged citrus trees. They make a really fantastic ornamental hedge. On this page is a photo of a limequat hedge in our own garden. The photo was taken just a few days ago and notice the huge crop of fruit, and these plants are only three years old.

Each plant in the hedge currently has at least 50 fruit, and the great thing with citrus is that you only need to pick the fruit as you need to use them. They will last on the plant for many months before they drop, unlike lots of other fruiting crops where the shelf life of the fruit is very limited. Mandarins, lemons, and limes all make super fruiting hedges.

In this article I have not been specific about particular citrus, but rather talking generally about all citrus, because they are basically all good performers. Grow what you like the taste of, but remember the few basic principles for having rewarding trees.

  1. FEED TWICE PER YEAR - spring and autumn with slow release fertiliser, with a balanced N.P .K.
  2. WATER REGULARLY - over the hot dry months, this will keep the fruit developing and the plant healthy.
  3. PLANT IN A SUNNY SHEL- TERED POSITION - away from cold wind and severe frosts.
  4. SPRAY OCCASIONALLY - with Neem Oil over the summer months, which will help keep the plant free of most pests. Citrus are very rewarding and are definitely a 10/10 plant for any garden if you follow the above requirements.

HAPPY GARDENING Graeme Burton Rukuhia Homestead Landscaping Ltd  

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Graeme Burton - Landscaper - Rukuhia Homestead, RD2, Ohaupo 3882
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