News for ‘Grove Heritage Nursery’
While the Grove Heritage Nursery collection of heritage fruit trees is a treasure recognised Australia-wide, it is also a sought after gem further abroad in the UK.
Housed at Grove, in Tasmania’s picturesque Huon Valley, the beautifully preserved collection of more than 600 heritage apples, pears and cider apple cultivars includes many varieties no longer available commercially.
UK based specialist plant nursery owner and enthusiast Derek Tolman first came upon the site (then known as the Grove Research and Demonstration Station) and its heritage collection in 2003, when his passionate search for old school apple varieties led him to Tasmania.
After fearing many heritage varieties had been lost forever, Derek was thrilled and surprised to track down many of the missing varieties on the other side of the world.
“We were, frankly, staggered to find such a rich vein of old varieties, many of which originated in Britain and had long been grown here, but had not been mentioned perhaps for 100 years,” he said.
The next few years saw Derek and his wife Judy, ably assisted by employee Alison Stewart, purchasing scion wood of heritage varieties from Grove to return to UK shores and produce trees for the public. To their delight and surprise, most took well to their new environment.
When Derek and Judy gave up their jobs to follow their passion and start their Bernwode Fruit Trees nursery in the late 1980s, they were amazed at the number of old school varieties of trees that had been simply forgotten.
“There were not many nurseries [then] as few fruit trees were being bought and sold and the country had entirely forgotten the enormous number of historic fruit varieties long grown here,” Derek said.
“At that time it was common for old trees to be ripped out to be planted with the latest thing (and, alas, often still is).”
To find many of these historic varieties in Australia was a fantastic discovery for the couple and other enthusiasts.
“A lot of people here have been more than intrigued by the happy discovery that old varieties neglected to the point of being ‘lost’ here, should have made their way, with settlers, to the antipodes and can still be found,” Derek said.
Just recently the relationship between Bernwode Nursery and the Grove site was reignited when Derek began another search for assistance in locating several rare pear varieties.
Derek’s work is all part of a massive task he and Judy set themselves, of compiling a database of all the apple varieties they could find. The search for data and information has included years of looking through old books and many visits to old orchards and individual trees. The database today comprises over 18,000 names. The couple are also busy working on an ‘ultimate’ reference work for domestic apples, a DVD and a book, which they hope in time, will also help growers in the UK as well as the important work done to maintain the heritage varieties in Australia at Grove.
And through all this hard work, Derek believes attitudes in the UK have slowly changed.
“It was clear to us that while a vast number of old trees were still growing in the country, they were disappearing fast and needed logging, researching and protecting,” he said.
“We played some small part in encouraging others to look again at these old trees, and now there is a vibrant national movement to look to the past, with many orchard groups, public bodies and private individuals conserving and researching our old fruit trees and varieties.”
As for the importance of heritage fruit varieties, on whatever side of the world they may appear, Derek said they were not only better in quality and variety, but there are also an important link to our past.
“There is an ancient pleasure in planting a fruit tree and nurturing it,” he said.
“For decades we have turned our back on them [long established fruit tree varieties] for the modern conveniences of cheapness and easy supply, at the expense of quality and variety.”
While Derek said there was much pleasure to be found from inquiry into the past, there were also great rewards in planting a rare, endangered and old fruit variety.
“Even the least of them will give more pleasure than the poor offerings of the supermarkets,” he said.
“These old fruits were valued, propagated and kept for good reasons.”
OAK Tasmania is leasing the former Grove Research and Development Station from the Tasmanian Government. Further information about the Grove site can be found here.
OAK Tasmania’s Grove Heritage Nursery is set to feature prominently on the tourist map, with the development of a unique Heritage Apple Walk on site.
Supported by funding of close to $82,000 from the Tasmanian Community Fund, the Heritage Apple Walk is set to be a great attraction for both tourists and locals.
Work has already started on the project which will comprise picnic lawns, barbecues and toilet amenities, as well as some of Grove Heritage Nursery’s nationally recognised Heritage Apple Collection, which will be replanted on site.
The Heritage Apple Walk is part of a larger tourism development planned for the site, which will include cider production and cellar door sales, as well as Grove’s recently launched online sales of heritage apple tree varieties.
OAK Tasmania CEO John Paton said the move into tourism was a new and thrilling one for the site and for OAK Tasmania.
“It increases the sustainability of OAK as an organisation because we are diversifying into new areas of business that traditionally OAK hasn’t been involved in,” Mr Paton said.
“In the long term this maintains and creates jobs for Tasmanians living with disabilities.”
Grove Heritage Nursery Manager, Mark Robertson said the Heritage Apple Walk will be a relaxing and interesting way for people to connect with the site and the history of the area.
“The Heritage Apple Walk will form a part of what will become a world class tourist facility and will link nicely into nursery sales, and more importantly cider sales, from the site,” Mark said.
“It will be that extra drawcard for people visiting the area and hopefully give them some insight into the heritage of the Huon Valley and the Apple Isle as well.”
A living museum of sorts, The Heritage Apple Walk will give people the chance to learn about the history of different heritage apple varieties, from their origins to their different growing and commercial conditions. With the best of the Heritage Apple Collection replanted on site, people will also get the chance to taste and buy different ‘old school’ varieties of heritage apples.
Aimed at providing a relaxing and interesting recreational space for the general public, it is hoped the scenic venue may also be used down the track for special events such as weddings.
Mark said the Heritage Apple Walk, which had been established with the support of the Huon Trail and the Huon Valley Council, would compliment other local attractions such as the Apple Museum and the local tourism industry plan, which focused on apples for the Huonville area.
The Heritage Apple Walk is expected to be open to the public by mid 2013.
The Tasmanian Community Fund provides grants to community organisations that make a difference by improving the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of the Tasmanian Community.
A selection of ‘first season’ heritage apple varieties were presented to Premier Lara Giddings today, as she toured the rejuvenated Grove Heritage Nursery in Tasmania’s Huon Valley.
The heritage apple varieties are part of Australia’s largest collection of 850 different varieties that are grown at the former Research and Demonstration Station.
The Research Station was opened by the Tasmanian Government in 1951 to research and improve apple varieties and growing techniques. OAK Tasmania took over the lease of the site in 2009 to preserve the Heritage Collection, which includes varieties that are no longer commercially available.
Ms Giddings said that while the Tasmanian fruit industry had diversified into other areas, apples remain synonymous with the Tasmanian brand.
“I am very impressed with the work OAK Tasmania is doing to preserve our reputation for growing some of the best apples in the world.
“OAK is making a significant investment to upgrade and revitalise the existing orchard and future developments may include a cidery, cafe and heritage walk to provide yet another tourist attraction for the Huon Valley.”
View more images of the tour on our Flickr feed.
OAK Tasmania’s Grove Heritage Nursery has found itself a key player in an Australian cider industry revival.
While beer and wine have always featured high on Australia’s list of favoured alcoholic beverages, it seems the European love of apple cider has come our way with an increasing number of growers and drinkers interested in the cider market. Gaining momentum both internationally and nationally, the cider industry is now one of the fastest growing sectors in the Australian beverage market.
And with Grove housing Australia’s largest collection of hertitage apple trees, demand for the nursery’s stock is set to increase.
Grove Heritage Nursery manager Mark Robertson, who attended the inaugural Australian Cider Awards in New South Wales, said the nursery’s stock had put it in a fantastic position.
“As home to Australia’s largest collection of apples, including cider apples, Grove Heritage Nursery is in the unique position of being one of the only commercial sized nurseries with access to a range of specialist cider varieties to service growing demand,” Mark said.
There was also strong interest shown in several unconfirmed varieties held in the Grove Heritage Collection, some of which closely resembled the varieties used by cider growers in France.
Mark said such varieties would play an important part in the industry’s future.
“There is a large amount of interest in a number of unconfirmed varieties held within the Grove Heritage Collection which are of specific interest to the industry going forward,” Mark said.
Many reasons have been attributed to the rise in popularity of cider in Australia (and internationally), including the search for a non-beer drink lower in alcohol than wine and the demand for a non-beer, bottled, alcoholic beverage for female drinkers. However while cider’s popularity in Australia was unquestionable, Mark said the challenge for the quickly growing industry would be one of supply.
He said Grove Heritage Nursery was putting a lot of energy into supplying what the industry needed.
“We are exerting a lot of effort into making as much material available to the industry as possible,” he said.
“We are endeavouring to bulk up our scion wood supplies and are building our capacity to keep up with demand and assist the industry in establishing new plantings.”
“We are also looking into some virus cleanup work on existing varieties to potentially help boost production of these.”
Mark said Tasmania was especially suited to a strong future in the cider industry.
“Tasmania is terrifically well suited to apple and cider production and has a rich history in this industry,” he said.
“Perhaps one day we will again be known as the ‘apple isle’ but for a different reason.”
OAK Tasmania’s Grove Heritage Nursery threw open its doors to the public as part of Heritage Tasmania’s annual ‘Open Doors’ event. The open day attracted around 250 people from all over the State who were keen to see, taste and smell some of the heritage varieties of apples made available especially for the occasion.
The open day attracted locals with a background in the apple industry, home gardeners who needed help to identify different apple varieties they are growing at home, and budding business entrepreneurs and home brewers who were interested in the heritage cider apple collection.
Families enjoyed the opportunity to wander around the heritage orchards and talk with the experts from OAK Tasmania’s Tahune Fields Nursery, who help manage the site by providing years of knowledge and expertise developed from being involved in the apple industry since the 1960’s.
Visitors and staff were well-fed on the day thanks to the abundance of apples and a terrific sausage sizzle, organised by members of the Huon Valley Rotary Club.
OAK Tasmania is excitedly transforming the former research and demonstration station into a vibrant social enterprise that will preserve and develop Australia’s largest collection of Heritage apples, and also provide employment and training opportunities for Tasmanians living with disability.
Grove Heritage Nursery, located at the former Grove Research and Demonstration Station in the Huon Valley, will be open to the public on May 7 as part of Heritage Tasmania’s ‘Open Doors 2011′ event.
Join us on-site and learn about Australia’s largest collection of heritage apple trees from experts who grow more than 200,000 apple trees a year! You can even wander around the extensive orchards and view the collection of almost 700 individual pome fruit varieties. We are offering visitors the opportunity to taste heritage apples varieties which have been made available especially for the event.
The Nursery has a significant place in the history of Tasmania’s apple and pear industry and will delight anyone who loves their apples. You are more than welcome to join us, but please remember that Grove Heritage Nursery is a working orchard. A reasonable level of mobility is required to view the orchards and we encourage visitors to wear suitable enclosed footwear.
How do I get there?
Take the Huon Highway from Hobart and turn right into Pages Road. Pages Road is well sign posted.
What time should I arrive?
Gates open at 10.00am on Saturday 7 May, 2011. We’ll be open until 3.00pm and there are amenities on site. Entry is FREE!
Several hundred (yes hundred!) varieties of heritage apples are being cared for at OAK Tasmania’s Grove Heritage Nursery, while providing employment for Tasmanians living with disability. In fact, the Australian Financial Review thought it important enough to write about it. And ABC TV’s Stateline got in on the act as well.