Lessons from my orange tree

“Fall seven times, stand up eight” Japanese proverb.

Much in love with the concept of having gorgeous reddish -orange edible citrus fruits adorning our backyard, and dreaming of all those dishes we could make with the fresh, organic oranges from the tree; there was no looking back for my husband and I when we decided to buy an orange tree sapling.

The little sapling grew up in the shade of a gum tree that lived in our next door neighbour’s backyard; and kept it from extreme sun and tough winters. However, the sapling grew top heavy on the look out for sunshine, and we were quite proud of the beautiful green foliage of our little shrub.

‘It takes about 3 years for orange trees to bear fruit’ is what we had heard from some of acquaintances, and we were counting days for the sapling to grow those first three years, into an orange-adolescent that would bear fragrant fruits! However, much to our dismay, the fourth year, the whole of the top part with the foliage broke off, leaving the fragile trunk without any leaves on it.

Seeing how disappointed I was, my dad who had never attempted to grow any trees through his life amateurishly grafted (!!) the trunk to include part of the broken top segment. Surprising all of us, the plant grew once again; right from the scratch.

The first time the smell of orange blossoms spread around in our backyard the year after, we were literally jumping with joy; however in the due course, almost of all of those flowers fell off the tree.

The next year, the blossoms were even better in number, and tiny little oranges even grew out of them. We watched; once again keeping our hopes up, but the tiny fruits fell off the tree this time. A friend told us that it could be because of the soil has issues in relation to its acidity / alkalinity. We ran to the local plant store to learn about ways to enrich the soil, and treated the soil with what they told us we should do.

We pinned our hopes on the year after that, and alas, we noticed that in time for blossoms, the leaves were all curling this time. Much research later, what we figured out was that it could be either one or all of the below factors that contribute to it – pests, disease, water stress and weather.

The next year was the one of so much of love and care for the tree; and we also used some organic pesticides to rule out the pest part. The tree bore blossoms again; but the fruits grew a bit bigger than the last time before the fell off the tree. The ninth year saw the same pattern! We ran out of reasons; and had no idea what to do. Someone suggested that maybe we should chop off the tree, and plant something else there. Though hesitantly, we were inclined to think in those lines as well.

Towards the end of the ninth year, our neighbour who owned the gum tree had to cut it down because it grew too close to their roof posing a risk – that very gum tree which provided shade for our little sapling to grow. But once the tree that overshadowed our shrub was gone, the change in our tree was dramatic. It soaked itself in the glory of the sunshine that was showered on it. And produced blossoms, which grew into baby oranges, and later into lovely full blown oranges; and after all those years of patient waiting, we had the amazing fortune to pick fruits from our own tree!

Our immense happiness aside, what the orange taught me was such an invaluable lesson! It really did fall seven times, but stood up eight times, and it was incredible what mother nature had in store for her the eighth time it stood up – the blessing to bear fruits of its own!!

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