Friday, March 13, 2020

What is an Orangery?

If you’re fortunate enough to live in Florida, then you probably know that citrus trees don’t just produce delicious fruit—they’re absolutely beautiful. The leaves are “classic” in appearance (shiny and dark green) and the trees can be sculpted and pruned into attractive shapes. Not only that, the lovely little flowers give forth a heavenly fragrance when they bloom. Then there’s the rich and gorgeous appearance of the oranges when they come along.

So is it any wonder that throughout history, the wealthy and refined among us have taken to growing oranges and other citrus in their homes and gardens? In fact, they've often spent vast amounts of money  to keep these plants alive indoors.

Indeed, some of the most resplendent palaces of all time have featured special greenhouses dedicated exclusively to growing citrus. These structures are known as orangeries.

The History of Orangeries

In the 17th through 19th centuries, as citrus became a "trendy" fruit, orangeries became popular among the European aristocracy. These elaborate heated glass structures would be filled with small citrus trees, other types of fruit trees (such as banana and pomegranate trees) and tropical plants such as orchids. The orangery allowed homeowners to grow and keep plants that could not otherwise survive cooler climates. Of course, it also provided a beautiful, sunny retreat that made winter more bearable. It might even include a fountain, statuary, and seating.

Many orangeries also featured an elaborate “outdoor garden” as well, sometimes with a traditional maze. Some of these buildings and gardens can still be visited today. Notable examples still stand in the UK, Austria, Germany, and Sweden, among others.  One extremely famous and incredibly spectacular orangery can be toured at Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles in Paris. In the United States, George Washington grew lemons and oranges in a large orangery; though it burned down in 1835, it has been reconstructed for visitors.
Hanbury Hall,  Worcestershire,Orangery and Mushroom House, 2016, DeFacto, CC BY-SA 4.0

Orangeries Today

It is still possible to build an orangery today, and today we also have the technology to make these additions much more energy efficient. However, it is inarguable that they remain a luxury. Those of us living in warmer climates will probably just choose to grow citrus outdoors. Indeed, many climates will permit the keeping of potted dwarf citrus. In winter, bring the plants indoors, but be sure to keep them in a very sunny area for best results.

Citrus such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, and tangerines are not just delicious, but possess a magical allure. The trees are so beautiful, their scent so intoxicating, and the fruit so delectable that it’s no wonder that the very rich and powerful wanted their own personal supply, especially since shipments from overseas could be unreliable and costly. No expense was spared to keep citrus close to hand, rather like a demanding pet.

These days, fortunately, it's much easier to purchase fresh and perfect citrus reliably by mail. Try some of our orangeshoneybells, grapefruit, or tangerines today—fit for a king, but for sale to all of us.

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