Saturday, August 21, 2010

Meet the Candidates: Elections in the Balcony Garden

Today in Australia many of us toddled off or will toddle off in these last couple of hours to the polling station to vote. So long as you are on the electoral roll here you need to vote. I like voting, I like my ability to freely and easily participate in some form of democracy. The problem with today's voting - the distinct lack if sausage sizzle stands and cake stalls at many polling booths. For shame Australia! Cheap sausages and democracy go hand in hand I say.

Anyway two wonderful friends of mine have been blogging about the leadup to the election, including a 'meet-the-candidates' section which helped outline the more obscure parties in the senate. If you are at all into politics, or just good writing pop on over to Carefully Scripted Remarks or The Adventures of Max U in Crazyland for a good political read.

But today on totally inept balcony garden I would like to introduce you to those greater candidates that have been elected to hold top position in the balcony garden - the fruit trees. Currently the balcony garden has six fruit trees, with a seventh position up for grabs. From the lemon to the lime, the apples to fig and not forgetting Mr Nectarine they all make up the balance of the balcony garden.

The first tree to join the fray featured in my first blog post. Mr Lemon tree was a gift from Miss G, a lovely vaguely hippy friend from up the road. She had procured a better lemon tree for her own garden and this one was free to a good home. I have nurtured it through the years and it usually gives me a modest amount of fruit, never more than four lemons, never fewer than three. He is about to get a repot, so new soil and a much larger pot to grow into. I am hoping that hill help with the problems he suffers, like new growth being nibbled away and leaves occasionally dropping.

Lemon trees are integral to my lifestyle, I grew up with one in the garden and the sweet scent of the blossoms is heavenly all year round plus the few fruits it provides are tasty. Solid, sturdy and reliable, a lemon tree is something all politicians should aspire to emulate.

The next tree was also a gift, this time from my Birth mother (I am adopted) for my very belated 28th or early for my 29th birthday or as a ate Christmas pressie I can't remember. I'd never thought about getting a dwarf nectarine, it just simply wasn't on my radar of things I wanted. But this tree is great. Last year it only gave me three fruit, and I definitely need to hand pollinate but they were some of the tastiest nectarines I had ever eaten.

Nectarines are a bit like the senator you never expected to get a seat but does, and then they prove to be a real winner. I hope it fruits again this year, it is already budding though it doesn't have a lot of new growth. Perhaps a top up of good soil and some nutrients will help.

The balcony garden stayed a two fruit tree zone for a while, quite a while in fact. It was only when I realised the benefits of pots that only needed new soil every two years, as opposed to vegetable growing which meant refilling the pot twice or thrice a year, that made fruit trees more desirable. Armed with a voucher and drive I went in myself for fruit tree number there - the tahitian lime. He has been here a while and seems to have settled in well. He is showing good signs of new near-Spring growth including new leaves and even possibly some buds.

Probably too new to decide what kind of politician he would be, but judging by the dominant colour I'd put him in with the Greens!

Shortly after the lime tree joined the gang, was my 30th birthday, and with that passing into a new decade came a lovely present from Miss M - a fig tree. Ok I should really rephrase that, a fig twig, Mr Fig Twig to be exact. It is a black genoa fig, self pollinating which works well in a one fig environment. It will take a few years before he is of fruit baring size. I can't help but liken him to my favourite Australian Democrat of yesteryear - Natasha Stott Despoja. She was so full of hope and promise and ideas, but went in too hard too early and it just wasn't her time. I have heard vague rumours of a comeback. I, for one, think this would be a great thing as with maturity brings good things - like figs.

After the figs came what I term the 'accidental' purchase of not one, but two apple trees. As any good gardener knows you need two apple trees to cross pollinate to get fruit, and when two dwarf versions of my two favourites, golden delicious and granny smith, were avaible and they could cross pollinate I jumped. I had wanted a ballerina apple tree, but none were available that would cross pollinate with either of these. The bonus of a ballerina is its upright nature, and the lack of pruning needed. I am a terrible pruner, though as these were bare rooted trees I had to at least have a go.

As they've only been in for a couple of weeks it is far too early to suggest what kind of political style they'll have. As long as they don't form a coalition akin to the Nationals and the Liberal Party then we will be fine. Besides growing trees is far too green a policy for either of those parties, but it would be an interesting carbon offset.

So there are the six fruity candidates in my garden. And it would be a good balance if I left it as that, but there is, just a slight possibility, that the group of six could be joined by a seventh. There is a spare large pot just about to become vacant after the broccoli is pulled.

It could remain a vegetable only zone, or it could, just as easily, house a small fruit tree. The only problem is, what fruit tree would I choose? The major ones I would like are (in no special order)

  • Self pollinating dwarf cherry (alas these only come in black varieties and I do prefer yellow/white cherries but imagine the blossoms)
  • Persimmon (dwarf(ish) self pollinating varities are orderable, but the deep tap root would be quite a problem)
  • Blood Orange (my favourite citrus fruit and one I cannot get enough of)
  • A ballerina apple tree which can pollinate with one of the existing apple trees
  • A dwarf peach/nectarine
  • A white genoa fig
And those are just the tip of the iceberg. Do you have any other suggestions out there? What do you think makes a good potted tree?

Anyway voting in new plants in the balcony garden is a touch simpler than the election here in Australia today. The polls close in a few hours and I am off to an election party armed with green, red and blue macarons. It is no accident that most of the macarons are green. By tomorrow we may have a new Prime Minister (in which case if it is the horribly antiquated Mad Monk Mr Abbott I will be relocating to another country!) My hope of Greens in power is too far fetched for a voting public right now so I have my fingers crossed that the Labor Party retains power for another term. And for the record, the Lemon tree, when asked who he would vote for, refused to comment.


Jamie said...

All good choices, Prue. How about getting a bigger balcony!

If I had a balcony and just one pot available for a fruit tree, I'd get a kaffir lime. It's very thorny, so that's it's big negative. But the leaves are fab in Thai dishes, so too the zest from the knobbly fruit. Melbourne might be a bit chilly for it, though. but it looks great with its weird, glossy green leaves.

Of your choices, I'd go for the fig. They like having cramped roots and do well in your climate. And it's so much fun overdosing on figs every February.

Funkbunny said...

Hi there,

I've got a kaffir lime in Melbourne and it does just fine. it's been a pot for years and although I never get many fruit, as the other poster says, the leaves are what you want any way. How about a feijoa? Impossible to buy in the shops because they bruise too easily but very yummy.

Lisa said...

I have a black genoa and a white genoa fig, because figs are so frigging expensive plus so frigging delicate, that I wanted to grow my own.

But do fig trees do well in pots? I thought that they needed to spread their roots everywhere and anywhere?

That said, mine are twigs in pots also - but I'm planning on putting them in the ground in a year or so.

prue said...

Jamie - good advice. I thought about a Kaffir but I don't make enough curry paste to quite warrant it. Another fig would be good and I am glad to har again that they like being in pots.

Funkbunny - good to see that if I do ever grow a kaffir it will be happy in a pot. Feijoa, now that's an interesting one. My friend just started growing one. What do they taste like?

Lisa - As far as I can tell figs are very happy in pots. In fact the only bad thing i've heard is that plants in pots sometimes don't thrive wen planted in the ground. Though I don't think figs would be in that category because they are so hardy.

Still haven't decided what to grow there, may leave it for this year and plant something crazy like a melon to see how it goes.