Lemon Tree Crosses Ocean

Since 1983 Mary and Malcolm have been visiting many different countries, each with its own climate and indiginous flora and fauna.

Having travelled around the world an amazing 180 times since they started Mary’s world healing and visionary mission (the story of Mary and Malcolm’s world record for continuous travel is on Mary’s bio page), whenever they would return to the UK to 'recharge their batteries', they would bring something back as gifts for their many relations and friends.

For the first 3 or 4 years they would look out for gifts that would be light and durable enough to endure the rigorous journey that the suitcases have to go through to get to their final destination.

shamrock picture

After the first few years of bringing back somwhat gimmicky, plastic and shiny knick-knacks and ornaments that only seemed to bring a smile for the first hour and then never be used or seen again, Mary and Malcolm had what seemed to be a novel and unique idea.

As most of the friends and relatives of both Mary and Malcolm enjoy gardening and the outdoor life, some time around 1989 they decided that 'something that could be fed and watered' might make a more long-lasting and meaningfull gift. Please remember that back in those days folks were much more relaxed about the kind of things travellers carried in their luggage! In these post-9/11 days things are, correctly, very different and nothing like this could even be contemplated.

Things started out with seeds and bulbs from Fiji. Next port of call was Hawaii where more seeds, small nuts, and tiny cuttings from the Macadamia trees were collected. (Kona, on the Big Island, has the reputation for the largest Macadamia Nut trees in the world.)

Vancouver Island, in Canada was their next working destination, and the beautiful yellow wildwood flowers that abound there was the choice.

From Canada they were overdue for a visit home. It had been a long and busy tour, altogether that year they had been touring for 10 and half months.

Their visit home was about three weeks, and then they were off on another globe trotting journey which was around 12 months in total, and at the back end of 1990 they arrived home again with more larger clippings and cuttings.

shamrock at mary maloneWhen Malcolm and Mary think back on some of the things that they have brought home in their suitcases and hand luggage during their world travels (1983-2005) they both smile, and know that anything like that would definately not be allowed now.

Although Malcolm is reluctant to give too many details of some of the above mentioned, he will however share one such story that concerns three lemon trees.

The story starts in July of 1996; Malcolm and Mary were visiting home after a lengthy and hectic tour of Australia and South Africa. Their visit home was only 2 weeks, and then they were scheduled to leave for New York, Las Vegas, Seattle, Honolulu, Fiji, Auckland, Singapore, and from there to end their tour with TV work in San Diego, California.

It was whilst walking along their local main street in the town of Westhoughton in Lancashire in the north-west of England, that they met an old friend of Malcolm’s family, Mr William Hall. Known as Bill to his friends, he was a character, and much decorated war veteran. He had heard through the local grapevine that Malcolm and Mary were bringing some weird and wonderful things back from their travels abroad.

Bill had himself done much world travelling, unfortunately most of it in uniform and often involving being shot at in several beautiful destinations, that would otherwise have been a nice experience.

Whilst at some of these faraway places, Bill acquired a taste for lemons, and asked if it would be possible to get him a lemon tree next time they were abroad. Malcolm mentioned that they would be going away soon, but it would be in April next year that they would be coming back. Bill said that was ok, and that he was 'looking forward to sipping his own lemon juice without having to dodge bullets'.

That was in July 1996, and it was on April 24, 1997 that they could to prepare for 'Operation Lemon Tree'.

lemon treesAbout a week before they were ready to leave San Diego for a week of rest and relaxation at their favourite hotel, The Orleans in Las Vegas, they mentioned to a good friend in San Diego, Mr George Hage, about their plight in trying to get a lemon tree for friend Bill. George has his own citrus fruit orchard, and said he would be delighted to help Bill in his quest for lemons.

After a short discussion about what they might fit into their luggae, George promptly went into his orchard and picked out three beautiful fruiting lemon trees. One of these would be for Bill whilst the other two would find their way to Malcolm's Sister Maxine and Auntie Doris.

shamrock, lemon treesEpilogue

This is a quick update on the 'Wandering Lemons' as of 6th October 2007, a little over 10 years since they were planted in March 1997. 

Apparently there are around 12 types of lemon tree, which come from differing locations around the world.

George gave to Malcolm three different types, perhaps some are hardier than others, and here is what happened.

The first tree, which was given to Malcolm’s Auntie Doris, unfortunately survived for only two years. Although it flowered twice, it did not produce any lemons.

The second tree, given to Malcolm’s sister Maxine who lived in Cornwall, lived for five years. This will have been helped by the much milder, almost frost-free climate in that southerly region of England and the fact that it was kept indoors.

This tree was re-potted three times, each time a larger pot, and was doing fine. Then in the 5th year Maxine took the tree from the house because it was getting too big to keep indoors. It was giving loads of lemons each year.

Unfortunately, that year there was an unusually harsh frost in Cornwall, and although she thought the plant would be ok in her greenhouse, the frost must have got to it. Bye-bye 2nd tree.

shamrockThe 3rd tree is (as of today) a success story. Unfortunately, Bill passed away 2 years ago but his tree lives on. The veranda that he planted it under not only kept the frost and snow at bay in winter time, there was also a heating vent exit for the central heating system in the little community housing venture in which he lived.

There was a constant flow of warm air exiting from just above where Bill planted this tree; he knew that tropical plants would flourish around that exit.

Shortly after Bills' passing another tenant moved in, and it seemed one of his pet dislikes is, you’ve guessed it, lemons. Also, by this time the little tree had grown to over ten feet tall and there were worries about the roots undermining the property.

However, the new tenant had also known Bill quite well and, like every one that came into contact with him he was fond of the 'old rogue'. If the tree was simply disposed of he would not be a very popular man! So after a little thought, he came up with what seemed to be an ideal solution.

He had a son who lives in the south of France; where better to grow a lemon tree? As luck would have it, he was due to bring his father some furniture for his new apartment in Bolton.

Without going into a long story (this lemon tree story could be the size of War and Peace), the tree was successfully extracted from its comfortable resting place in Bills home and now is living in the South of France. At the time of writing the tree is over 12 feet tall, and producing more lemons than the owner’s can possibly use.

shamrockI like to think of this as a success and a fitting tribute to an old friend. 


Footnote for plant lovers.

The reason given for the growth of the lemon tree was supplied by Bill's close friends. He called the tree Audrey 3 after he saw the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” staring Rick Moraines.

The plant in that movie was called Audrey 2.

He also played some of his favourite music each day to the tree, including George Formby, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Ink Spots etc.


Authors footnote

If ever you are down South of France way, and you stop for a little rest by a peaceful, and relaxing little garden, you might notice a beautiful fruitful lemon tree, and wonder “what’s such a big, bonny lemon tree doing here”, just smile, think of Bill playing music to his tree, and say in passing “Hello, Audrey 3”