Jill Covill of Bunchberry Nurseries recently collected what she says is the first harvest of oranges in the province.
Here’s a prime example of how the climate is changing in our province: Jill Covill harvested her first crop of oranges in Upper Clements this fall.
Covill, who has a degree in horticulture from the University of Guelph, has been involved in the industry for at least 25 years in Europe, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
She started Bunchberry Nurseries in 1995, and moved it to Upper Clements, Annapolis County in 1997. The nursery is known for its heaths and heathers, which it sells throughout Atlantic Canada and beyond.
However, the nursery isn’t just limited to heaths and heathers. There’s a wide selection of perennials, shrubs, conifers, and trees.
Covill likes to collect and propagate unusual plants and the nursery has become a destination for the avid plant collector.
Enter the orange (Ponciris trifoliata). It was one of the plants she bought to test the limits of horticulture in Nova Scotia.
Purchased as a small plug in 1998 from a nursery in Oregon, it was planted in one of the display beds.
Covill says it has always been a subject of interest for its bright green bark and 3-inch thorns. It also has a spectacular fall colour.
Left it to its own defense for 15 years, it reached a height of five-feet, with a diameter of three-feet. The tree has never been sprayed, pruned or protected for the winter. It flowered for the first time this past spring. The flowers were single, clean and white, with an amazing fragrance.
In mid-summer she noticed oranges starting to form. The dozen fruits grew to be about an inch and a half in diameter and matured to a pale orange. When cut open they have the fragrance of an orange, but taste more like a lemon and are packed full of seed.
“I’m told they make a great marmalade and I am sure they could be used for zest,” said Covill, who adds that the oranges are a great novelty to Nova Scotia gardeners.
She’s had interest expressed by horticulturist Niki Jabbour and the Kingsbrae Botanical Gardens and has collected the seeds.
“I plan to germinate them and have the plants available for sale in the near future. I can't imagine it will ever be a production plant. They do use this cultivar as a hardy rootstock in regular orange production and maybe my seedlings will be in demand as the most northern source of hardy rootstock,” she said.