Visitors to the home of Jerry and Elke Taylor in Dunmore are welcomed there by the fresh scent of citrus, but it’s not a manufactured air freshener – it’s from the citrus trees Elke grows in their home.
The couple lived in California for years before moving to Pocahontas County, and Elke said she missed being around citrus, so she took matters into her own hands.
“I love the citrus trees, and I love the smell,” she said. “Over the years, I kept starting them from seed – you know how you get those little seedlings and they never amounted to anything. Then I read that if you start them from seed, they probably will never bear fruit, so that kind of deterred me. I quit years ago, and then about five, six years ago I started up again and low and behold – they started blooming and bearing.”
The trees flourished and now Elke has several lemon trees, including a pink lemon tree, as well as an orange tree and grapefruit tree. Although the grapefruit tree has yet to produce fruit, it does have leaves and may join the others in making fruit later.
The trees have become a marvel because they do so well in a climate in which they typically would not. Elke doesn’t take any extra measures to ensure the health of the trees. She simply waters them, and gives them lots of TLC.
“When I tell people I have citrus trees, they think I baby them, fertilize them heavy to get the fruit and all this,” she said. “Actually, I never fertilize. All they get is tap water. I just water them. Maybe every two or three years, they ought to have some citrus fertilizer, then I get some meracid. I give them a shot of that one time in the spring, but not every year.”
The TLC and tap water seem to be all it takes because one year, the orange tree put forth 36 large, juicy oranges.
“They’re heavy,” Elke said. “It makes you wonder how the tree can support them. They get big and heavy with the juice, and yet it supports them. You actually have to twist them off.”
The lemon trees produce lemons the size of oranges.
The trees spend their days soaking up the sun, fighting for window space and at night, they prefer cool temperatures.
“If I had a room with windows all around it, I would have more,” Elke said. “I would in a heartbeat, but right now, they’re fighting for window space because they do like the light. The lemon trees sit on a breezeway facing the windows. The living room has a picture window but it’s too warm in there. They’ll drop their leaves if they’re too hot. At night, they really like it cool – in the fifties or sixties. The cooler you can keep them at night, the better off they are.”
Elke enjoys the “fruits” of her labors, and shares her citrus with friends. She makes sure to use all parts of the fruit.
“I like eating them, and I love the juice of them,” she said. “I usually make lemonade with the lemons. I grate the peel to put in cakes and things, baked goods. Not much goes to waste.”
While she will never have a full orchard of lemon and orange trees, Elke is content to have her small collection of indoor citrus trees.
“The whole house smells like citrus when they are in full bloom,” she said. “I love it.”