Orangerie Boxes

Should I be in the mood for some lemons, limes or oranges, there’s a grocery store nearby that has them available year round.  Not so, in 15th century France.  Once citrus made an appearance in France, the only way to make them regularly and reasonably available was to grow the trees.  Between 1684 and 1686, an orangery was built at the palace at Versailles.  An orangery is a building which houses citrus trees during the winter months.  There are over 1000 citrus trees grown in wood boxes at Versailles; many of them are orange trees-thus the origin of the word “orangerie”.  The box pictured above is of Belgian manufacture, the last of a series we had at the shop.  This client needed 7, so they would need to be made up.  

I call any large box big enough to hold a tree an orangerie box.  I was indeed delighted to get a request for 7 custom made orangerie boxes that will actually be used to grow lemon trees.  Buck was happy to oblige.  He built them out of white oak, a common material for garden benches and ornament.  The finished boxes would be painted white. 

They would be lined with sheet metal liners; this keeps the water in the soil away from constant contact with the interior wood surface.  Oak is an incredible durable wood in the landscape.  Oak log rounds buried in the ground for use as stepping stones will last many years.  The liners will add even more years to the life of the boxes. 

Buck designed and made a jig that would hold the bevelled boards for a pair of panels.  Thin strips of wood used as spacers kept the vertical boards exactly the correct distance apart.  This space between the boards allows the box to breath, and the wood dry out readily.   

Buck tells me that the spaces between the boards are not equal.  They range from 1/16th of an inch to 3/16th of an inch.  I am taking his word for this, as I cannot spot this by eye.  Why would he do this?  It enabled him to build the box to an exact outside dimension, while keeping all of the vertical pieces of wood the same width.  His manner of construction is incredibly precise.    

Once the individual panels were finished, he was ready to assemble the boxes.  At 30″ by 30″ by 31″ tall, these boxes are very heavy. 

The finished boxes have steel bands bolted to each panel; this will keep the oak from warping.  I rather like them just how they look here, but my client has another idea. 

I am hoping I get a picture of what they look like with lemon trees in them.  I imagine they will provide very good homes for those trees.   

And not just good homes-these will provide very handsome homes.