The Orange has held a special place in history certainly as far back as the 17th century when Louis XIV built his Orangerie even before he began to turn a modest hunting lodge (by royal standards) into the Palace of Versailles.
During the summer Louis’ more than 1000 tress were and are (even today) displayed across the Parc de Versailles at the base of the Palace. In the winter, they are moved indoors to their own palace where they are tended to by a battalion of gardeners.
But Louis isn’t the only person to have a special relationship with the orange. It played an important role in the history of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, in fact most of Southern California, because before there were cities and freeways or even Doheny and his oil wells, there were orange groves – miles and miles and miles or orange groves.
So in honor of this illustrious and juicy fruit and because it’s spring and the orange blossoms are budding on my Valencia Orange tree, we’re going to look at the Orange both as a bearer or succulent juices and as an ornamental addition to your own “Parc” or “Orangerie.”
An orange’s bright, shiny green foliage looks great both in the ground and in a great big terracotta pot. Orange trees, loaded with fruit in terracotta pots always remind me of Florence and the combination makes a great addition to any garden or balcony. Should you want to add a container and an orange tree to your patio, I suggest planting a dwarfed specie.
Oranges, like all citrus trees, prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Drainage is particularly important with containers and I suggest you mix cactus mix or sand (50/50) with a standard garden soil and make sure that their feet don’t stand in water. Oranges also benefit from regular feedings – every two months spring through fall. There are a number of good organic citrus fertilizers on the market.
Oranges are easy to grow in the home garden and ripen at a time (late winter to early spring) when deciduous trees are just coming out of dormancy. While they are all ornamental, you might make your selection based on whether you want them for eating or juicing. While you can eat any orange and squeeze juice out of all of them, certain varieties just lend themselves better to each category.
For eating, navel-type oranges such as Washington or Lane Late Navel oranges are easiest to peel. For juicing, nothing beats the Valencia (AKA Midknight Valencia) orange. If you are looking for distinct flavor and color, consider blood oranges like the Moro, Sanguinelli or Tarrocco. For something completely different you might want to try the Cara Cara Navel.