From November through February, Laura Wichmann Hipp hangs a handwritten sign on her Tradd Street fence post:
The golf ball size citrus fruits you see on these trees are calamondin oranges, which make the queen of marmalades. The Queen of England has a tree that I have seen in her orangery at Buckingham Palace. You can imagine that perhaps she enjoys calamondin marmalade on her toast, as we do, too!
“A lot of people are curious about what the fruit is. Others knock on my door to ask if they can harvest it,” laughs Laura of the oranges along the fence separating her lawn from the Coast Guard Base. “The sign is a nice way to let them know I use the fruit.”
Laura planted the calamondins six years after she, husband Preston, and their three daughters moved into the home in 1998. “I thought a citrus grove would be more interesting than a staid hedge. And of course, oranges are very much part of the peninsula’s history,” says the Holy City native and pro tour guide.
She also needed the calamondins to carry on another tradition: marmalade-making. “While I was on the Preservation Society of Charleston board in the late 1980s, a colleague, Katherine Whimpy Carey, brought me a bag of calamondins along with her mother’s marmalade recipe,” says Laura. Over the years, those gifts have yielded many more. The Hipps make large batches to give as holiday presents and donate to St. Philip’s Church for sale in their spring tearoom.
The spread has also become a signature element of the Charleston Tea Party Tours Laura has run for some 20 years [(843) 577-5896, charlestontour.wordpress.com]. These intimate affairs—which visit private downtown houses and gardens before ending with lunch in the Hipps’ home—have been mentioned in publications such as The Washington Post and Financial Times of London’s How to Spend It magazine. “For tour guests, I’ll use marmalade on top of a goat cheese salad, in a tart, or to glaze a cake,” says Laura. “The idea is to give visitors a taste of Charleston hospitality.”
For this same reason, when the Hipps’ flagstone walk is clouded by summer zinnias, Laura puts another sign in her yard: If you enjoy my flowers, please pick some so you can have flowers in your home, too.
“These days, people need extra gestures of kindness. Offering them flowers from your garden or marmalade from your kitchen can turn their day around,” says Laura. And that’s Charleston hospitality at its finest.