The Wisconsin man’s indoor citrus tree is 61 years old, and is part of the family
Green Bay, Wis. – He’s a family member Mark was Entry into the house is only allowed when it gets cold outside.
Not to mention names – oops, she doesn’t have one – but she’s over 6 feet tall, can barely fit in a door, is decidedly heavy-bottomed, has been known to make a mess in the corner and has a reputation for being a bit of a thorn in his wife’s side.
However, I couldn’t love Grapefruit Tree more.
He was in second grade when he and his mom planted a seed from half the grapefruit he had been eating for breakfast that morning. Not only did it not germinate, but 61 years later, the tree it grew in is still with him.
He spent the first 20 years at his parents’ home, graduating from plastic containers to whiskey barrels. He moved in with him when he got his own apartment, and for the past 30 years, the sweet home has been the home of Kahn and his wife Linda Gindrich in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where he’s been officially part of the family.
He comes out in summer in the yard and breezes by the high winds that stir him, deer sampling his leaves and squirrels using his pot to bury treasures. In the fall, he rides outside Wisconsin winters in the southeast corner of the house with a window view and grow light for “a little oomph.”
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I don’t know how my parents did it.
Getting about 100 pounds from the tree in the house and back outside again is quite a semi-annual production.
It can grow as much as 1 foot during the summer, so it’s usually pruned back in the fall to reduce its size. Then they are wrapped in blankets and wrapped with bungee cords and twine to grip the branches for better travel through the door. He, Jendrich, and a neighbor have taken him to loggerheads, and even so someone or some wall would still get scratched or pricked by one of his large thorns.
It was said, “I don’t know how my parents did it for the first 20 years.” As soon as I moved to Wauwatosa, they showed up with him in the back of the car and it was like, “Here, we don’t want her anymore.”
Gendrich has been known to share this sentiment at times, but despite her pleas to “get the thing off,” the tree is still going strong.
They root, but about every three years they pull them out of the pot, cut the roots, give them fresh soil, and watch them bloom once the summer temperatures arrive. Just as Kan’s mother had told him all those years ago: “Water and sunshine, and you will thrive.”
I can’t get rid of it. I just can’t.
Things were fine about 10 years ago when she developed a spider mite infestation, but advice from friend and nationally known gardening expert Melinda Myers and the staff at Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee managed to get her under control.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t bear any fruit, and I don’t know why,” said Wes, who had long since given up hope that it would happen. “At 61, she’s past her prime — kind of like me.”
What it lacks in breakfast table offerings, it makes up for as a conversation piece. At every birthday party, birthday party, and picnic in the yard, he never fails to get people talking. When visitors didn’t believe it was a grapefruit tree, a leaf was cut off to be rubbed between their fingers so they could get the scent of the citrus.
There was a time when he thought about donating to the Domes, he could live out his golden years in a spacious, warm year-round home surrounded by tropical friends and no more grueling seasonal moves.
“But I can’t do it. It’s part of my childhood,” he said. “I can’t get rid of it. I just can’t.”
A little piece of his mother grows with that tree. It brings back memories of her sitting at the table browsing plant catalogs in January and February to pick peppers and tomatoes started from seed.
It’s love in this labor of love. He’s pretty sure every fall and spring when it’s time to move the tree, she looks down and laughs at herself.
Kendra Meinert is an entertainment writer and columnist for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Call her at 920-431-8347 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @employee.