It’s time to plant your fruit trees.
The Clarens winter may be harsh for some …..but it is peak trading season for De Leeuw Fruit Tree Nursery just outside Clarens. During the coldest months thousands of carefully cultivated, two-year old deciduous fruit trees are lifted from the field. The trees are sold to retail nurseries, small fruit growers, government departments and to individuals who just like picking fresh fruit off their own trees in the backyard.
The nursery which is situated about 10 km outside Clarens was started by Jim and Flos de Leeuw more than 80 years ago. Their vision was to make fruit trees available to as many people as possible at affordable prices. Three generations later the vision continues with trees now supplied as far afield as Mpumalanga and KZN and exported to Swaziland and Lesotho.
Jimmy de Leeuw was one of the early headmasters at Clarens Primary School. He started planting peach pips as a hobby and initially gave the trees as gifts to friends and acquaintance. Florence Johnson, originally his colleague at the school, later became his wife. She initiated the importing of cultivars from overseas for grafting purposes. Florence (or Flos) de Leeuw later became the mayor of Clarens – apparently she was the first female mayor in the Free State – quite a feat for the village at the time!
Today fruit trees such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums and prunes are lifted on the farm and sold while dormant. The trees are taken out and roots are packaged in damp plant material and sacking. This makes transport easy – even in a small vehicle. More than 40 different varieties of peach trees are cultivated, while a range of almond trees and ornamental fruit trees are also produced. Other trees on offer include walnut, almond, pomegranate, mulberry, quince, fig and crab-apple trees. Grape vines are also available.
The best time to transplant is during June/ July and depending on weather conditions, early August. The trees are currently dormant and settle into their new environment unperturbed during this phase. They are then ready to sprout when the growing season arrives in spring. The saplings are very hardy as they are grown without irrigation and are well-adapted to local weather conditions.
The nursery is open weekdays and by appointment on weekends. Trees are sold at R 30 each. Apple trees are sold at R55 each and cherry saplings at R 70, but these are already sold out for the 2015 season.
Directions: Turn right onto the S205 approximately 3 km outside Clarens on the Bethlehem road and follow the signs. It is approximately an 8 km drive to the De Leeuw Fruit Tree Nursery on the dirt road. It is advisable to phone in advance to avoid disappointment.