It has been a colder than usual winter here in the South. Yes, I know those of you north of the Mason-Dixon line have certainly had your fill of it, too.
We have several potted citrus trees, which usually spend their winter outside; however, on the rare occasions where the temperature dips into the 20s and below, we bring the pots into the house turning our kitchen into an orangery.
Within a week of being brought in, they will bloom and perfume the entire house with their heady citrus scent—something that normally announces the coming of spring. But soon the blooms fade and drop, followed by leaves that are yearning for more than four hours of sunlight. They look rather anemic at the moment and it is always a race between their health and stable overnight outdoor temperatures above 30 degrees. Winter has lingered here longer than usual and I hope the trees can survive another week in our orangery.
Almost every villa or palazzo in Italy has an orangery. Long, narrow, terracotta-roofed, multi-windowed structures can be found toward the back of the properties. Here terracotta pot after terracotta pot of citrus tree varieties—orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and pomegranate—can be found geometrically placed around the garden, covered in blooms in the spring and heavily laden with fruit in the fall. When the temperature drops, the pots are moved inside the orangery where the warm winter sun pours through the glass, drenching the plants with much needed light, and warming the terracotta pots and terracotta floor tiles. When scurvy and other diseases caused by malnutrition were all the rage, an orangery would provide fresh fruit, a much needed source of vitamins and minerals, well into the winter.
The orangery at the Villa Pisani, just outside of Padova, was beautiful this past November when we visited. The enormous garden outside the structure was full of potted, fruited trees. The building did have some plants in it, but the vast majority of them were still outside enjoying the pleasant weather.
Sometimes people ask how our trips to Italy influence us. At times the influences are subconscious and are never consciously realized, but there are many times when sights in Italy are put into practical application. The orangery in our kitchen is one of those literal and obvious applications.
If your fruit trees are still buried with a blanket of white, I hope the photos will remind you that soon the trees will be flowering, the birds will be singing, and the bees will be buzzing.
Ciao e a presto~
(**The first three photos are from the Villa Pisani and the last photo is our make-shift orangery in the kitchen.)
Click here to see another photo of the Villa Pisani.