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President’s report for 2016

Our 6th year started strongly with the 2015 AGM seeing 6 new and 5 long serving volunteers form the WPHO committee.  It was a great moment, showing the sustainability and strength of the group and highlighting the increased awareness and involvement across the community that has been built up.

During the year we noted with thanks the services of Richard Hawkey who retired as Treasurer and Committee member.

The diversity of the group (age, gender, culture, life experience) is no barrier to friendship and camaraderie. This made the passing of one of our passionate volunteers, Brian Burns, in May a sad event for all. Brian was a great example of how WPHO adds skill and human warmth to change lives.


Talking, demonstrating and then using the new skills at our Friday morning session has increased both ability and awareness through the group.  Our weekly volunteer numbers rise and fall over the seasons, but our core weekly attendance has remained at a higher level than previous years.

Active volunteer numbers have also been influenced by our presence at a number of events this year. Notably State Rose and Garden Show in November, the March Chef, Farmer and Wine Maker, Soil to Soul with Wyndham Council and the Gardeners Day Out with Deakin Uni in June. These types of events give us great opportunities to tell people about the Orchard and our group, and generally educate the public about heritage fruit.


This year has also seen us develop partnerships.  With old friends, the Heritage Fruit Society we held the 1st Tasting Session at the Orchard: five lovely heritage apples that people compared – and marvelled at. We also worked with new partner 2and5 in Corio to supply and plant 100 heritage fruit trees.  This NFP group aims to get social and economic disadvantaged people access to cheap fresh fruit and veg. The WPHO were happy to help with that aim.  And of course our relationships with Parks Victoria, Nature West and the Karen Community continue.


Sustained volunteer numbers have allowed us to continue with expanding the Orchard. Work was done this year on the hedgerows, adding hazelnuts and crab apples; and a couple more rows were netted to protect against the ongoing threat (and damage) from possums and rabbits.  For the first time this year WPHO sourced its own rootstock for the July 2016 grafting day. This was a large learning curve for a number of the committee and we will develop the education and offering to the pubic of more varied rootstock in future.  For a 2nd year in July we were able to borrow a grafting machine, and together with extra volunteer sessions, it has meant we were able to secure extra varieties for the Orchard.


Our grafting days this year were a mixed bag. July events continue to go from strength to strength and prove a test in managing the growth; with about 2000 people attending. The biggest challenge is up skilling people with the confidence to take on doing double grafts – in public and for strangers. The February event this year had a disappointing turnout of about 800 – 1000 people. Whether it coinciding with Valentine’s Day made an impact or something else happened we cannot be sure.  The days are a large effort by the group; and we learn from each of them.


On the financial front the cost of netting and the result of the poor February day left us with a severe cash problem. With much humble appreciation we received a number of cash and equipment gifts.  Combined with many, many sausages sizzles and cake stalls we enter the new year in a much healthier position.


Looking forward the netting effort continues, as does the search for a good tree labelling method, and the need to find the successful way of striking the Hawthorne for the hedgerow.  Our newly relocated nursery will make it easier to take better care of our potted grafts and strikings – essential for drawing attention to promote WPHO and sell at events we attend.

There are many ideas of what else WPHO can do in 2016 / 2017. The continued concern about summer watering versus the cost of getting electricity or solar pumps down to the Orchard is never far from our minds. We are investigating planting varieties above the flood plain for extra heritage security, running additional Tasting Sessions as soon as the Orchard can support them, and initiating a Schools and Community Program. Also under discussion is how we can take up the offers of volunteering from those who can’t attend on Fridays. E.g. making or repairing benches and tables to building and maintaining Little Free libraries, website development, grafting day planning and fruit variety research.

I look to 2016 / 2017 with anticipation of it being a great year.

Craig Castree
Werribee Park Heritage Orchard Committee

 News Archives

Heritage Apple Tasting @ Werribee Park Heritage Orchard

Sun, February 28, 2016 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM
Bookings Essential
Come to Werribee Park Heritage Orchard in K Road, Werribee to sample the seasonal flavours of the Heritage Apple Collection at an Apple Tasting over 2 hours from 10 AM.

Approximately 15 varieties available for tasting. Orchard tour included.

Come and try, perhaps for the first time, some of more than two hundred varieties grown in the Heritage Apple Collection at Pettys Orchard in Templestowe.

All funds received go toward the maintenance and expansion of the heritage fruit collections at Templestowe and Werribee.

Winter Grafting & Tree Sales Day

Held annually on the third Sunday in July.
In 2016 it will be held on Sunday July 17th
Time: 10am to 3pm.

See the EVENTS page for more details!

A Review of the Year 2014

December, 2014

It’s been an amazing year of growth in the orchard and if you haven’t been down recently, we invite you to come along and take a look, or better still, attend one of our free Friday workshops!

Here’s a list of some of this year’s achievements from our fearless leader, Craig Castree:

  • A resurgence of volunteers engaged in the orchard focused through workshops
  • Introduced 17 varieties of cherries
  • Cemented our place on the horticultural calendar as being the 1st and the biggest Grafting Day in Victoria
  • Set up two bee hives in the orchard.
  • Completely replaced the spray irrigation system with a drip irrigation.
  • Expanded nursery space, including in-ground rootstock space.
  • Bought three fantastic marquees.
  • Mulched quince area to promote rootstock growth and reduce need for mowing too close.
  • Chicken coop built and populated with some rare-breed chickens.
  • Fruit net purchased and will be in place before year’s end.
  • Replaced failed trees with new trees.
  • Planted the start of our display garden.
  • Planted and irrigated an espalier apple row of 8 trees with 6 different varieties on each.
  • Purchased and installed an automatic sprinkler to keep possums off espaliers and the nursery.
  • Struck cuttings of grapes, kiwi fruit, and others in preparation for sale on next grafting day.
  • Purchased and installed heat bed for glasshouse to assist propagation.
  • Installed a test hydroponics system in the glasshouse

Werribee’s Grafting Day Continues to Grow

Tuesday 22 July, 2014

Werribee Park’s Grafting Day has established itself as a major calendar event for the horticultural sector with over 1400 visitors coming along to the annual event last Sunday.

Most people were there to watch and learn the techniques for success by observing some grafting gurus at work. Expert grafter Craig Castree was surrounded by a crowd of fascinated observers as he demonstrated the art of the perfect graft. As he worked he explained how the older tastier varieties of fruit like apples were disappearing due to the demand by supermarkets for newer hybrid varieties that store well. His message to the crowd was that growing your own both preserves heritage varieties and gives the tastiest fruit.

The Werribee Heritage Orchard group provided root stocks and hundreds of different fruit cuttings for made to order graftings on the day, or to be taken home by fruit growers.  It describes the park’s heritage orchard as a bank for old fruit varieties and are planning to have tasting days in the future to let people discover just how unique and better tasting heritage fruit varieties are.

Apart from the grafting sessions there were also tours of the heritage orchard, apple juice tasting, composting demonstrations and walks and talks in the veggie patch, which has been resurrected to its former productive glory. The restoration is part of the Working Beyond the Boundaries program, and has been done by a group of Karen volunteers of Burmese origin. It now produces a wide range of herbs and vegetables, some of which are used by the restaurant at the Mansion.

Senior Horticultural Ranger at the park, Adam Smith, says they were delighted with the success of the day. “It was wonderful to see so many different kinds of people wanting to know more about producing their own fruit and learning about the value of keeping heritage varieties going. This event is a special kind of celebration for this different aspect of the park’s heritage.”

Source: Parks Victoria