Climate Change: Gardeners Growing Lemons in Canada

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” … this is just the beginning.”
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Calgary Herald (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Sunday » May 25 » 2008

Lemons in Victoria? Blame it on climate change
Retiree’s garden grows everything from olives to kiwi

Sandra Mcculloch — Canwest News Service
VICTORIA – When climate change hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Retired entomologist Bob Duncan and his wife,
Verna, are growing big, beautiful lemons against
a south-facing wall in his North Saanich, B.C.
backyard, something he couldn’t have done decades
ago when skating on Victoria ponds in winter was
a common occurrence.

News that lemons now flourish here doesn’t
surprise University of Victoria climatologist
Andrew Weaver, who adds that gardeners no longer
need to bring their geraniums inside over winter.

“We know the climate has continued to warm,” said
Weaver. “It takes time for people to wake up and
smell the roses and there are more of those roses
now to smell. This is nothing; this is just the
beginning.”

The Duncans’ impressive collection of 200
different apple varieties and 200 other
sub-tropical varieties are compactly arranged on
a one-third of a hectare lot.

This is a homegrown example of climate change and
has Bob Duncan travelling the world doing
lectures to horticulture experts.

His goal in the beginning was “to grow as diverse
a variety of fruit trees as our climatic
conditions would allow and those climatic
conditions are evolving as we speak,” he added.

The idea of pushing the limits of climatic
tolerance appealed to Duncan, who retired in
December after 30 years of scientific work with
the Canadian Forest Service.

“What is possible to grow is anything with a
temperate Mediterranean or sub-tropical origin,”
said Duncan.

You only have to wander through his backyard to
realize exactly what he’s talking about: there
are olives, lemons, pomegranates, persimmons,
kiwis, avocados, Chinese dates and guavas, among
others.

Managing the garden “is a constant process of
trying new things and trying to find out how well
they do under our conditions.”

These plants are alive and well because the area
hasn’t seen a cold snap of a week or 10 days
where temperatures drop to -10 C and don’t get
above freezing during the day.

Decades ago, “you could skate on the local
ponds,” he said. “The last winter we had like
that was 1989.”

Now, Victoria is seeing nighttime frosts — a
common phenomenon in the Mediterranean, so it
suits these kinds of plants.

While growing lemons may excite area gardeners,
scientists are growing more concerned about
weather patterns.

“There’s almost a sense that there’s a forest
fire nearby and you wait until the fire gets to
your house before you leap and that’s too late,”
said Weaver.

“Dealing with global warming requires everyone to
be involved to make a difference.”

© The Calgary Herald 2008

Copyright © 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division
of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All
rights reserved.

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