|Robert Guyton checks on some of the heritage fruit trees ahead of the heritage fruit tree sale starting on Friday at the South Coast Environment Centre in Riverton.|
Robyn and Robert Guyton still find it hard to believe that people from around the world seek advice from them about heritage fruit trees.
It is because of them that the small seaside town of Riverton has fast become the New Zealand heritage fruit tree capital, if not the capital of the world.
Every year as part of their Open Orchard Project they have a heritage fruit tree sale outside the South Coast Environment Centre, in Riverton.
Before the sale started on Thursday 600 trees had already been sold.
South Coast Environment centre administrator Karla Evans said they had about 380 trees remaining.
Once forgotten apples, pears, plums and other traditional fruit were in hot demand.
After nine years the Guytons are still surprised at the continued growth of the annual sale.
Robert Guyton said there were people from as far away as Nelson, Christchurch and the West Coast travelling down to Riverton to pick up pre-ordered trees on Friday.
I would have thought it would have petered out because you'd think people's orchards would be getting full, but in fact it's the other way round, it's expanding."
The reason why the sale did so well in Southland was because those who bought trees could get help from people at the Environment centre, Guyton said.
"We're teaching how to prune, how to graft and our team of volunteers is going around all the different Southland communities doing workshops.
Evans thought the increased popularity of the sale was because of the Guytons' appearance on the TV programme Country Calendar.
"People are becoming inspired"
In 2007 the Guytons launched the Open Orchard Project to collect and and duplicate the fruit trees that settlers brought to Southland.
From 2008 to 2010 cuttings were gathered from heritage orchards throughout Southland and the collection had grown to more than 800 trees.
Robyn Guyton said when began the project they were just in time to save the trees left behind.
"We've got the biggest collection of heritage fruit trees in New Zealand at least."
So far the project has identified more than 110 varieties and Robyn Guyton hopes to be able to identify 10 more varieties each year.
Some of the tree varieties were 800 years old, they said.
"24 generations have said this is worth passing on."
When settlers were arriving in New Zealand, nurseries at the time in Dunedin had 1400 varieties of fruit trees available for sale to settlers, Guyton said.
"The Victorians loved collecting. When they put apples in they didn't just want variety like we do now, they had 40 different varieties in their orchards."
The big project now that the trees were saved was to return them to locations around Southland, Guyton said.
"We're going to have 10 or 12 heritage orchard parks around Southland."
The project group was struggling and they were hoping the communities who own them could manage it, Guyton said.
The first one was already started with the 15 early settler trees planted on a half acre section, based on the 15 early settlers of the Riverton area, she said.
It was really exciting to see people restoring old orchards using the heritage fruit trees, Guyton said.
Last week the Guytons found out the South Coast Environment Centre was the top environment centre in the country as judged by the Ministry for Environment.
The annual heritage fruit tree sale runs until Sunday from 10.30am to 4pm outside the South Coast Environment Centre, in Riverton.
(Thanks, Dave, Robyn and Natasha for the coverage)