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Do you remember the old Morrison Bros Nursery on Williamson Road in Doncaster? It might surprise you to know that there is a mini orchard tucked behind the former nursery. Surrounded by low-rise apartments that sprung up ten years ago, the orchard still boasts several rows of mature peach trees and a few feijoa and orange trees. During my visit in March, there was also a riot of colour from ripening tomatoes and various species of flowers. Stepping onto Robin Morrison's property is like stepping back in time to an era when orchards abounded in this area, now known as Manningham.

Robin at the Montpellier Crescent orchard, published in The Argus in 1950

Robin's parents, Archie and Leila, were both born in Doncaster in the early 1900s. They got married just after the Great Depression and bought a 20-acre property around Montpellier Crescent in Templestowe Lower. The Morrisons grew fruit trees on the property, and at its peak, they had hundreds of peach trees along with lemons, plums, apples, and pears. However, their peach crop was frequently damaged by frost in the spring due to the lower ground and proximity to Ruffey Creek. When the land off Williamson Rd became available, Archie purchased it, and it proved to be a wise decision. The new property had fertile and well-drained soil, and the higher ground provided ideal conditions for growing fruit trees. As promised, Archie built a new home for Leila on the property, and Robin has lived there for the past 50 years.

Robin and his brothers, Graeme and Donald, were involved in their family's business from a young age. On picking days, Archie would pick the fruits at first light, and the three boys would join him to help load the boxes of fruits onto the trailer.

Peaches loaded up and ready for the trip to Queen Victoria Market

On market days, Archie would wake up at 2 am and take his produce to sell at Queen Victoria Market, where the Morrisons had the 7L and 5E stands. As time passed, Donald took over selling fruits at Queen Victoria Market from Archie. They were both excellent salesmen.  During Archie's lifetime, the mode of transportation for taking their produce to the market changed from horse and wagon to a truck.

Fast-forward to 1979, the family opened the Morrison Bros Nursery, and it quickly became an iconic nursery for the Doncaster area. Graeme and Donald ran it while Robin continued to grow and sell peaches. Robin and Donald also grew chrysanthemums to sell for Mother's Day. Sadly, Donald was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2000, and he retired.

In 2015, the Morrison brothers decided to sell most of their land to a developer. This decision was made because Donald's health was deteriorating, and Graeme wanted to retire. However, Robin decided to keep the family home and continue growing fruits in his mini orchard. Robin is a fascinating person to talk to as he has an extensive knowledge of the area's history, especially about being a peach grower. He has saved several old peach varieties, which were initially planted in the Montpellier Crescent orchard. One of them,' Anzac', is a delicious white-fleshed peach raised on a property in Doncaster East. It was named in 1915 by August Zerbe, a well-known orcharding local who was also a councillor for the Shire of Doncaster.

These days, Robin and his brothers would catch up often, and they would reminisce about the happy times when they all worked together at the orchard with their parents. Their lives tell the story of a bygone era in Manningham.