Winter brings many interesting kinds of materials for floral design. One of my favorites is the kumquat.
Kumquats are one of those unforgettable fruits, and are especially popular for holiday arrangements. A long time culinary favorite in China and Japan, this fruit has been in cultivation for perhaps a thousand years. It appears in ancient Chinese manuscripts.
When translated from the Chinese, the name means golden orange.
Kumquats are especially plentiful during the winter months for that is when they ripen. Starting about November, I usually see them appear in supermarkets. These are grown commercially in California and Florida.
One of the hardiest kinds of citrus, this can tolerate temperatures to 18 degrees Fahrenheit. It is often used as a yard tree by gardeners in warm climates. Floral designers who live in such areas can grow their own kumquats for use in arrangements. The trees need a sunny, well drained spot. They tend to be bushy. For that reason, the plants are normally pruned on a regular basis. The trees aren’t terribly large. They usually grow to maybe twelve feet in height. However, the ultimate size is dependent upon the root stock used and the actual growing conditions.
The small, citrus-like fruits are orange, and are elongated in outline. Depending on the variety, the actual size of the fruits can vary. Normally, they are about two inches long. They come in little bunches of five or so.
Please notice that when I described the kumquat that I said citrus-like. This refers to the fact that they are in fact not a true citrus. They are related to the other citrus we commonly eat.
For holiday floral designs, branches of kumquat are used. In this way, the lovely orange color of the fruits is beautifully displayed against the bright green foliage. In “Flowers-The Complete Book of Floral Design,” Paula Pryke, known worldwide for her innovative approach, presents two designs with kumquats that are breathtaking. This was published by Rizzoli.
This plant is named after the world famous plant explorer Robert Fortune, who lived from 1813 to 1890. A renowned English botanist, he was responsible for introducing the kumquat to Europe. From there, it eventually made its way to America.