More than 30 years ago Kay Baxter started collecting fruit trees in the Northland area. After moving to Kaiwaka, to her husband Bob's family farm, Kay realised that that the planted fruit trees in the orchard were nowhere near as good as the old seedling peach that was self sown, growing out from under some old dog kennels. The tree had been there for many years, and always cropped heavily. The tree was never pruned, fertilised or sprayed, and the fruit was sweet and juicy, with a white flesh. This was one of the old peaches that used to grow wild around the Kaipara Harbour, these grow true from seed. Modern peaches and other commercially grown fruit trees do very poorly on the Northland heavy clay soils, so these peaches were very special.
This peach tree set Kay off on a journey - collecting fruit trees that were well adapted to the Northland region, and were easy to grow organically, with a desire to be able to feed her kids healthy food in a sustainable way. The trees that the early settlers brought with them to New Zealand were an important part of their gardens, providing rare sweetness, and reminding them of home. These are very different to the commercially available trees, which are predominantly adapted for conditions suited to commercial production.
Many of the old trees are gone now, orchards have been bulldozed to make way for subdivisions or grass for large farms, possums have destroyed many surviving wild trees, and even the best trees have a limited life span. The stories of the communities, families and individuals from whom these trees have come to us are described in detail in Kay's Book - Design your own orchard.
The fruit trees in the Koanga Institute Northland collection are trees that will do well in the North, which is essential for the heavy clay soils and humid climate. They have been selected for their unique qualities making the well suited to home orchards, and sustainable, organic growing conditions.
Our fruit tree collection has expanded over the years, and it now includes many trees from the Eastern Bay of Plenty and other areas of the North Island. Our berry and hedgerow collection is being developed, so that we can make it available to our members and the general public.
We hold a growing collection of NZ heritage berries including raspberries, currants, worcesterberries, gooseberries, blackberries and blueberries. These are berries that have been valued, grown and passed around by our ancestors here in New Zealand. We’d love to hear from you if you know of any heritage berries: gooseberries, currants, worcester berries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries etc. They are an important part of our cultural heritage and in the past they have played a vital role in meeting our nutritional needs. We hope to expand our collection of berries as they are so valuable and suitable for home gardeners...read more!