Historic fruit trees dating back to the days when Puhoi was settled by migrants from Bohemia may get a new lease of life, thanks to a community orchard project for the township’s riverside park.
The Puhoi Community Forum is planning to plant nine fruit trees in the Puhoi Pioneers Memorial Park, on the site of the redundant A&P show sheep pens, next to the pony club grounds. These were cleared recently by Auckland Council.
Forum co-chair Dustyn O’Leary says a community garden was first proposed for the grassed area.
However, since most local residents already have their own gardens or land to maintain, it was decided instead to use the space to plant and preserve some of the many historic fruit trees that remain in the area, including gardens and the church grounds.
Using her professional skills as a landscape architect, she has drawn up detailed plans and a planting scheme for residents to view and discuss.
“We’re on about the fourth revision now, we’ve had lots of feedback,” she says. “We’ll probably plant modern heritage varieties that have hardy rootstocks this year and then graft on cuttings from local heritage trees once they’re established, so they have the best chance of survival.”
Final decisions on the balance of fruit varieties are yet to be made, but will probably include pear, plum, fig, apple, persimmon and citrus trees, plus three grapevines. There will also be underplanting with a range of low-growing plants that attract bees and deter pests, such as borage, comfrey and chamomile.
The first stage of work will involve drainage works and planting rootstocks, plus moving and restoring the former tennis club pavilion that now sits between the orchard plot and pony club. That will be followed by construction of a frame for the grapes and horse pens for the pony club, plus a possible petanque court and veggie gardens at some stage in the future.
The orchard and pony club development is the latest in a series of projects to improve the Memorial Park. Although owned by Council, the Puhoi Community Forum formally took over responsibility for managing the parkland grazing lease in 2013 and has since carried out a range of activities, such as extensive weed clearance and planting, to improve the amenity for locals and visitors.
Ms O’Leary says that while some funding will come from the grazing lease, much of the work for the orchard and associated works will be voluntary.