Welcome to the Heritage Fruits Society

About the Heritage Fruits Society

The Heritage Fruits Society is a not-for-profit group based in Melbourne, Australia. Our aim is to conserve and study heritage fruit varieties (also known as 'heirloom fruits') on private and public land.

We enable and encourage society members to research this wide range of varieties and to inform the public on the benefits of heritage fruits for health, sustainability and biodiversity.
You can read about our history here.
You can find our list of heritage apples here.

Working Bees

 The Heritage Fruits Society will hold Working Bees at Petty's Orchard between 9am and 12 noon on -

* the first Sunday of every month 

* some Wednesdays - see list on right

Due to Pandemic restrictions these dates may change. Watch our newsletter for updates.

Petty's Orchard

Petty's Orchard in Templestowe, Victoria, Australia, is one of Melbourne’s oldest commercial orchards, and it holds the largest collection of heritage/heirloom apple varieties on mainland Australia, with more than two hundred varieties of old and rare apples. The maintenance of the apple tree collection is done by Heritage Fruits Society volunteers. Anyone can come and help. Find out more!

Please let us know if anything on the website is not working by sending us an email HFS

Visit Yarra Organics @ Petty's Orchard
Organic Shop and Cafe
open Fridays and Saturdays 9am - 5:30pm
and Sundays 10am - 4:30pm.

President's Report: 2020 - 21

The 20-21 financial year was particularly challenging for our group due to limitations on activities posed by the COVID pandemic. We were restricted in the working bees and other events that we could hold, and our financial situation has deteriorated as a result. However, starting from such a healthy base, its overall effect is not at all serious.

We had a deficit of $1700 for the year, but our bank balance overall is still a healthy $20,000. Despite the restrictions, a large amount has been achieved. We managed to have the 2 rows of poor-quality trees removed, and in their place planted 77 varieties of European and Japanese plums, and more have gone in in this financial year. This has involved clearing the site, setting up the dripper system and putting corflute protectors around each plant. This unfortunately has not completely stopped the kangaroos, and we lost 5 trees over the summer to kangaroo damage.

Space has been allocated to adding another row of apple trees. Trees have been grafted and grown up during the year, and some have recently been planted, in a new Row 2. Row 2 will be a row of double-grafted trees, with a standardised planting to make varieties easy to find. Our thanks to the volunteers who looked after trees over the summer.

Yarra Organics, who lease Pettys Orchard, asked us to graft Pink Lady apple and Moorpark apricot trees for them, and we delivered them in the new financial year, but offset the maintenance charge that we pay to Yarra Organics with some of the trees, and there will be a further offset in 2021-22.  
Our planning for netting the apricot rows has continued, but no start has yet been made to this project. The heavy rains have caused waterlogging of the soil, and consideration is being given to some drainage work in that area.

The nets and supports in row 10, which were in very poor condition, were removed – except for a re-constructed net around our Pitmaston Pineapple tree and our 3 medlars – and the other trees protected with corflute.

We were not able to run our tree and scion sales day in August, so an on-line sales arrangement was set up, and we successfully sold over $1000 worth of trees and scion.

The 2021 autumn was a bumper season for apples, and so apples were sold at the farm gate, to a cider maker, and to a shop selling apple pies, as well as at the three tasting events that we ran.
We had not pruned the apple trees for some years, but in this new financial year we made pruning a priority, and during autumn we managed to prune more than ¾ of the trees.

We have had contact with other like-minded groups, including Heidi Art Gallery, Down’s Farm at Seaford and the National Trust, but contacts have been limited due to COVID restrictions.
Our plans for the coming year include amongst other things – netting the apricots against kangaroos, building a dry store, and replacing the container with a new wet store.

Our conservation and education work could not be done without the assistance of our volunteers, who have performed a multitude of tasks over the year, largely at Pettys, but also behind the scenes in managing our on-line presence, sending out notices, and publicising our events. I would personally like to thank all those who have paid membership, or have worked at Pettys or behind the scenes, for maintaining our organisation as a viable, active and effective conservator of our heritage.

~ Cecilia Egan, President HFS.

President's Report: 2019 - 20

Last financial year has been quite a mixed one for everyone, and the Heritage Fruits Society is no exception.

We began the year with successful if somewhat reduced grafting days at Pettys and CERES in August. We did little in the way of publicity, and this is an area which we are not strong. Maybe it’s because we attract volunteers who are more interested in other things!

Our tastings were reduced to one small event in March due to the restriction on gatherings, and this resulted in a drop in income of over $1000. It is significant that the Werribee Park Heritage Orchard group has begun selling apple trees and scion at their events, such that it is no longer viable for us to attend. Together with this and reduced sales overall, we had a deficit of $2680 for the year. However, we still maintain a healthy bank balance to go forward, with a number of projects which have developed through the year and continue into the new financial year. We had additional spending due to the project to plant a collection of heritage plums at Pettys, and this additional spending will continue into the next financial year.

We purchased 25 apple rootstock that we could double-graft and now have over 20 ready to plant at Pettys in 2021. This is part of a plan to plant varieties from Rippon Lea that we don’t currently have, and some duplication of varieties at Pettys that are at risk because the tree is in poor condition or poorly represented elsewhere. I’d like to thank Justin Buckley, Executive Manager at Rippon Lea for allowing us to cut their scion. (A few of our members spent a day at Rippon Lea in winter assisting with pruning their orchard).

In the winter of 2019 we planted 12 varieties of apricot in the area just north of the marquee (now we have 14), with a view to eventually having around 25 apricot varieties for conservation, tastings, and tree sales. The Committee has recently committed some funds for a project to net that area.


We have been collecting plum varieties for a few years, and made a third trip last year to cut scion from Graeme’s collection. Jumping ahead to the present, I can report that the two northernmost rows of apples at Pettys were removed last month, and a small group of volunteers has planted 76 of those plum varieties out at Pettys, with another 25 set to go in next year. We will just share with you a photo of the area.


Plans for the next few years include:

  • -        Additions to our apple varieties – there are currently about 30 additional varieties grafted and growing to a plantable size – damage by kangaroos is our biggest problem in planting at Pettys.
  • -        Additions to our apricot and plum collections. We currently have a few more to plant, and are looking to access more varieties.
  • -        Netting the apricot area using a steel frame, to test the group’s ability to do this with volunteers, with a view to possibly netting the whole area at Pettys.
  • -        Looking at ways we can support other groups and locations in planting and maintaining heritage fruit collections.

I’d like to thank everyone who has attended the AGM, and who has supported the group in some way. In our own quiet way we are publicising heritage fruits and maintaining the diversity of fruit varieties. Stay safe.

~ Cecilia Egan, President HFS.

President's Report: 2018 - 19

This year has been one of consolidation, rather than advancement. Financially we finished with a
small deficit, but a lot has been achieved in that time.
We had the ride-on mower serviced and completely overhauled, as is required after 50 mower
We again collected plum scion from Graeme in Healesville, and grafted that up. We have about 120
plum varieties in pots and might plant them out if we can have the area below row 1 levelled and
the drainage improved, but we are dependent on the area drying out first. Those trees have grown
well over the summer, and we again thank those volunteers who stored plants at their house. We
may be in a position to sell grafted plum trees next winter.
To improve the nursery area, we arranged to buy and install a cube, piping and a timer so we are not
connected to the mains water, except for filling the tank when we are on site and can monitor the
hose. We created a bath out of builder’s plastic to stand pots in over the summer, and this has
proved to be a successful way of growing pots on-site at Petty’s. Recently we added another bath
and hope to create several more this spring.
Last winter we supplied apple rootstock to Rippon Lea and assisted with the grafting of trees from
their scion for them to sell. We ran 2 apple tastings at Rippon Lea and shared the proceeds, and will
probably do the same again next year. We have developed a good working relationship with the
gardeners there and have become involved in re-juvenating their orchard.
We also supplied scion and sold rootstock to the community group at Down’s farm in Seaford, and
are assisting them with planning for planting an orchard. The group has a very large area available
and potentially could contain as many trees as we have at Pettys. However, there are multiple
groups involved and progress will be slow. We ran an apple tasting there in autumn but had only a
few guests due to poor publicity.
We ran a pruning demonstration in January for the Sustainable Gardening Association, with a
number of industry participants. Potentially we can use the orchard for other groups to learn
pruning, and have our trees pruned in the process.
One of our members runs grafting workshops on behalf of the group, and around 40 people were
taught to graft. The students have to do an hour’s work grafting, labelling or potting rather than
make a cash payment. This doubles as publicity for the group and some of the participants have
become volunteers for the group.
This autumn we had a bumper crop of apples, but the logistics of selling them means that we give
away what we don’t use for tastings. Many were donated to the refugee families living in Eltham and
volunteers took lots home. We are not at the orchard regularly enough to pick all of our production,
and some are not suitable for eating and thus not a priority. We ran 4 tasting events at Pettys.
On behalf of the Committee I would like to thank all the volunteers who have given up their time to
work in the orchard or on various other activities needed to keep the group running. The pruning,
the netting, the new planting – all show how much can be achieved by volunteers.

~ Cecilia Egan, President HFS.

President's Report: 2017 - 18

This year has been another successful one for the Society. We have gained a number of new volunteers, and have promoted and progressed the conservation of heritage fruit varieties. Approximately 300 apple varieties are in the ground and growing, while there are more than 100 plum varieties ready to go into the orchard next winter, plus medlars, apricots and peaches.

We have finished the year with a financial surplus of more than $3200. We are well-placed to spend money on netting, and are considering the possibility of netting the whole heritage section. Netting certainly needs to be installed before we plant our plum collection next winter.

Three years into our project to collect all the heritage plums in southern Australia, and plant them in at least 2 publicly owned sites, we have a collection of about 120 of the 160 or so varieties we have identified. These are growing in the backyards of some members, as well as a large collection recently planted in the nursery at Pettys, in the expectation that they will be large enough to plant out next winter. This is an on-going project, which we hope will be completed in about two years, and we then expect to sell grafted plum trees and maybe have plum tastings as well. A by-product of the plum project is that we are also collecting heritage apricot and peach varieties, and we are looking at planting in the area to my right, between the marquee and the small gate, as well as north of the current apple rows.

Apple tastings this year were reduced, largely due to the small harvest, but we expect to return to Rippon Lea next year, as well as other sites.

We grafted many stonefruit trees during the year, but our success rate was low. We believe we have identified the problem, and our success rate this spring looks much better.

Our partnerships with various organisations continues strongly. We participate in grafting days at Werribee Park and run our own at CERES as well as at Pettys. We have assisted Darebin Fruit Squad and the National Trust via Rippon Lea, and we are part of the Victoria-wide sharing of scion which occurs every winter. In the new financial year we have begun a partnership with Down’s Farm in Carrum – owned by Frankston Council - who are hoping to duplicate our heritage collection on their property. Our efforts to work with The Briars have slowed considerably, but we are hopeful of continuing the work we have already done – they have about 100 apple varieties supplied by us.

The Committee is very appreciative of the efforts of volunteers to maintain the orchard, and to assist with grafting and tasting days and off-site activities. It is not unusual for people to make small donations when buying our trees or scion, with a comment that they appreciate the conservation work that we are doing.

~ Cecilia Egan, President HFS.

President's Report: 2015 - 16

The 2015 – 16 financial year has been a very successful one for the Society. Although we finished the year with a deficit of just over $2700, we purchased a ride-on mower and trailer, for over $3300. Without the large capital expenditure, and a grant of $1000 from Esso, for which we thank them, and Jill Stevens for organising, we would have had a deficit of under $500, which is very satisfactory considering the work we are doing. Profits from our sales and tastings go back into the orchard and pay for collecting and maintaining the varieties we have.

Of course, we only look at the finances in this way, to ensure that we have the money to pay for our operations. Of paramount importance is conserving varieties and encouraging people to plant varieties after making an informed choice. To this end we ran a series of apple tastings in autumn, and we see the benefits of this when people come to our grafting days and ask for varieties they have tasted earlier in the year. We also aim to give our best possible advice on varieties to grow, and I wish to acknowledge the volunteers who have information about varieties that they are happy to share with others. Building our knowledge base is an important part of our work.

We approached CERES nursery with the idea of selling our trees, and they agreed. We supplied an initial order of 50, with 8 more just recently. This is a direction we are interested in pursuing, as our trees are then sold all year round. We plan to approach a small number of other nurseries to become involved. The requirements of CERES made us improve our presentation, and it also provided the impetus to run a dedicated grafting day, just grafting for our own purposes, and we have continued that into this year.

We have worked with Werribee Park Heritage Orchard, where we attended grafting and budding days, swapped scion, and run the first of what we hope is many heritage fruit tastings. We have supplied scion to The Briars in Mount Martha to assist in establishing a heritage orchard, and again ran a grafting day.

Our plans for the current financial year include grafting and conserving the plums, quinces, apricots and medlars we have recently collected from 2 private collectors, to hopefully begin a stone-fruit collection here at Petty's and expand the one at The Briars. We have given the excess scion to Werribee so they can expand their collection.

Again I would like to thank all our volunteers for giving up their time to run our operations. Hopefully it is an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and we look forward to the new year (already started) when we can expand and deepen our work.
Thank you for coming to our meeting, and for being part of our organisation.

~ Cecilia Egan, President HFS.

President's Report: 2014 - 15

2014-15 was a successful year in the development of the Society. It saw progress in a number of initiatives.

We again ran grafting days at Pettys, CERES and The Briars, and joined in the Werribee Park Orchard day. A particular success at these was the sale of one-year old trees, so we are increasing our supply, and targeting varieties we believe are in demand by home growers. We also limited the number of varieties of cut scion to about 70, on the understanding that we would cut scion, if available, from Pettys trees on the Pettys grafting day.

Our activities at Pettys increased, with a number of trees growing to one year old in our nursery, and hence being available for sale, as well as growing up the 35 or so mostly new varieties you see here in the new row 10 North, which were planted recently.

We have been experimenting with ways of growing our own rootstock, and have some rootstock planted which we hope will supplement our purchases next year, with a long-term aim of being self-sufficient for apple and stone fruit rootstock in the future.

Tasting events were reduced this year due to the low harvest of apples, and the codlin moth problems. The lessees of Pettys, Yarra Organics, are planning a new regime this summer, spraying vinegar amongst other things to reduce the coldlin moth problem. We are hoping to expand our tastings next autumn to include weekdays and tastings at other sites, e.g. Werribee. If you would like to volunteer at one of these, you can join in the fun and taste the apples for free.

We again sold apples at an organic foodstore, but only in reduced quantity.

We have reduced the bird problem by netting across 2 rows, so that we can walk between the rows under the netting, but can seal the outsides to very effectively keep the birds out. This has led to greatly reduced damage from birds.

We continue to have working bees on the first Sunday of each month, and have added working bees on the first and sometimes other Wednesdays, particularly when there are apples to pick. See our website or one of our committee for details.

Sadly, our founding Secretary, Ian Batchelor, had to resign for personal reasons. Ian helped build the Society by generously giving his expertise in management and horticulture. He is sorely missed. We have a new Secretary temporarily, but are on the lookout for a new Secretary. If someone takes on the job, they will have every assistance from the Committee.

Looking to the future, we have bought a ride-on mower, which will assist us in controlling the grass, and hopefully decrease the black spot problem. We have an arrangement with CERES in Brunswick to sell our trees and have an extra 125 grafted and ready to go. Our thanks to those members who have agreed to nurture them for us. We were given one of each of the 7 apple rootstocks grown by Eversen Nurseries, which closed recently, and have planted them in Row 10, as we believe these are apple trees in their own right, perhaps not heritage, but a valuable resource, and should be grown along with other varieties.

Damage to trees by kangaroos has become a problem recently, and Yarra Organics believe that they can reduce the number of roos by building a fence across the western end of their property, as the roos come from Westerfolds Park direction. We will continue to monitor the situation, and have put wire around some trees to limit the damage.

I would like to thank members for joining our Society, and for coming today. I hope you are happy with our aims and plans, and look forward to working with you in the coming year.

~ Cecilia Egan, President HFS.

President's Report -
the summer of 2015

2015 promises to be an exciting year for the Heritage Fruits Society. We will be running tasting and grafting days as we have in the past. We also hope to run tastings at Werribee Park Heritage Orchard and The Briars Historic Homestead in Mt Eliza. We will participate in the grafting day at Werribee Park, as well as Werribee Park’s bud-grafting day in mid-February.

The Briars is very keen to expand their small collection of apples and plums, and this could be a major repository of fruit varieties in the future. The land seems very securely held by Mornington Shire Council. We supplied almost 100 varieties of apple scion to them last winter, and although not all have survived, they will have a lot of planting to do next winter.

Our nursery bed at Petty’s Orchard is going reasonably well, but holes have developed in the chicken wire fence, so that will need some extra work. There are about 50 varieties growing there that are not currently in the orchard, and we are always looking to expand our collection.

We sold apples to an organic fruit shop last autumn, and they are keen to sell more for us this year. The publicity from such an arrangement is enormous, and we have a sign on their shelf indicating the varieties for sale.

CERES nursery is interested in selling our one-year old trees on consignment, but we need to guarantee that we can regularly supply trees of a good standard.

Our attempts at growing rootstock, have not been very successful, so that is something we need to work on – so we can have our own supply. We are considering buying a ride-on mower to assist with grass-cutting, and with moving apples around via a small trailer on the back. We are also considering permanent netting over the orchard, to reduce birdstrike and remove the onerous task of putting the nets on and taking them off each year.

There are other projects too, for example, improving labelling of trees. Naturally we can’t do all this without volunteers, so we thank all those who have worked hard to get us to where we are now, and ask that you continue to volunteer at working bees, on the committee, and lots of other behind-the-scenes tasks needed to keep the society running. Contact us about things you might help us with.

Upcoming events

Fri, August 19, 2022 9:30 AM • Fairfield
Fri, August 19, 2022 1:00 PM • Fairfield
Sun, August 21, 2022 1:00 PM • Fairfield
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