Mexican orange does not actually produce any fruit.

Remember when gardening took advantage of the great climate and soil of the Santa Clara Valley? Single story suburban homes with low suburban fences had generous sunny garden space. Now, multiple-storied homes on smaller parcels surrounded by big fences leave only minimal space for shady gardening. Rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas and all sorts of ferns are more popular than the many fruit trees that were so much more common only a few decades ago.

‘Washington’, ‘Robertson’, ‘Valencia’ and ‘Sanguinelli’ oranges that have quite a history in local home gardens are now not much more common than the previously rare Mexican orange, Choisya ternata, which, although related, provides only mildly fragrant flowers without edible fruit. The modest white flowers are only about an inch to an inch and a half wide on loosely arranged trusses, but show up nicely against the rich glossy green foliage. They can bloom anytime, and happen to be blooming now because of the pleasant weather. Otherwise, they prefer to wait until late spring and early summer.

The trifoliate leaves (which are palmately compound with three smaller leaflets in a palmate arrangement) are about two or three inches long and wide. The individual leaflets are about one and a half to three inches long and nearly an inch wide. Foliage can get sparse on big old plants, as they eventually reach lower floor eaves. Occasional pruning of lanky stems can improve foliar density and keep plants as low as three feet. Mexican orange does not actually resemble real orange trees much, but provides nice glossy foliage that is occasionally enhanced by simple softly fragrant flowers.


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