March 3, 2021
Our dear friends, Sheila Kostelny and Paula Spletter, are master gardeners extraordinaire. Paula is a graduate of the class of 2009 who works at Northhaven Gardens as their Creative Director, specializing in color pot combos. She is a garden lecturer and speaker with an extensive knowledge of herbs and succulents. And, with the impressive gift of a custom designed greenhouse built by her sweet husband, gardening year ‘round is her greatest pleasure.
Sheila also graduated in 2009 and has just recently completed her vegetable specialist certification from the Texas Master Gardener Association. Her backyard-raised herb and vegetable garden beds leave you starry-eyed with wonder. Sheila, too, enjoys having a greenhouse to take her through the seasons.
Together, these two ladies have guided us through many gardening projects at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. We love to spend time with them and, yes, when they speak, we listen!
Just recently, we ran across a photo that left us drooling. It was the creative work of nationally acclaimed food stylist and photographer, Eva Kosmas Flores. Photos of her Coconut Lime Tart with a Coconut Graham Cracker Crust inspired us to learn more about the possibility of growing lime trees locally. Paula and Sheila were just the gardeners needed to advise us in the endeavor. Join us in this informative and inspiring Q & A as they take us on a journey of Texas lime tree “tips’”.
To start, when did you become interested in growing lime trees?
Paula: I think when my little sister moved to Florida. When I would visit, she had a variety of citrus trees in her backyard. I’ve always enjoyed growing citrus trees and have quite a collection. I prefer the taste of limes over lemons. A thornless lime is a must have!
Sheila: I have had a Meyer lemon tree for probably 10 years that I purchased at Sunshine’s Miniature Trees on Greenville Avenue. Since that time, I’ve added Persian Lime, Sweet Kumquat, and Arctic Frost Satsumas.
Was there a particular variety that you felt most appropriate for our Zone 8 climate?
Paula: Not really. I went by what was recommended by Texas A & M for our zone and of course what garden friends had success with.
Sheila: To be quite honest, I purchased the Persian Lime tree from Costco 4 years ago. It wasn’t a purchase that I researched ahead of time.
Lime trees are tropical plants so how do you manage year-around care?
Paula: They do prefer some late afternoon shade, especially in our harsh summer months. Surprisingly, they can take pretty cold temperature in short bursts. It’s the prolonged cold temperatures that destroy good tissue. What can’t fit in my “barn” are on flat bed dolly’s and rolled into the house. They are generally starting to bloom in the winter, so I get the extra bonus of their scent.
Sheila: The ability to bring these potted trees into my greenhouse at the threat of 32-degree temperature is a luxury I cherish. I have one Arctic Frost satsuma planted in the ground in my west garden and one planted in its original pot in my raised bed. At the point that I realized that this weather storm was going to hang around a while, I removed the potted satsuma and put it in my greenhouse. I’m not sure if either of them will survive at this point as they have survived temperatures as low as 9 degrees.
When is harvest time and about how many limes does each tree yield?
Paula: For me, harvest is in late fall. The current Mexican lime I have I might get a dozen, or so, limes off it. They are smaller limes and tend to ripen quicker. Fortunately, the birds seem to leave them alone. Strong winds tend to knock the blooms off so I don’t get as many as I should.
Sheila: Harvest time is around November for me. My lime tree struggled this year and I’m not quite sure why. It really started to kick start in December (of all times) and was beautiful when it was placed in my greenhouse in mid-January. It started putting out an abundant amount of blooms and produced 4 limes. At one point, I had my greenhouse heater a bit too high and the citrus didn’t like that at all. It showed its displeasure by promptly shedding it’s leaves, leaving me with ONE lime left. Typically, I can expect about 5 or 6 limes a year and they are wonderful.
What do enjoy most about having lime trees in your garden?
Paula: Oh, the blooms! The scent is intoxicating! I cut stems full of blooms just to have in the house.
Sheila: As with all my citrus, I love being able to watch it produce from bloom to fruit and, as with anything homegrown, enjoy its rich sweetness and flavor like no other.
How do you use the limes from your lime tree?
Paula: They usually don’t ripen at the same time so I’m bad about just peeling and eating them off the tree. But they do make great margaritas!
Sheila: As I mentioned, my lime harvests haven’t been luxurious. However, there’s nothing like a vodka and soda with a squeeze of home-grown lime. 😊