Rancho Viejo is a fossilized piece of nursery history. Located just Northeast of Springfield Lake just outside of Mexia, TX this property is home to tens of thousands of trees that have been making their way on projects since the early 1990s. The field was originally, much like most Central Texas farms, a cattle pasture. In the early 1990s Salvador Olvera planted over 18,000 trees from tiny plugs; Live Oaks, Crape Myrtles, White Oaks, and Bradford Pears. Today, the field is home to dozens of large specimen oaks which have truly withstood the test of time.
These trees were once the "culls" of the ultra popular 3" and 4" crops of trees. Left behind and abandoned because of a crooked trunk, a scar, lopsided heads, you name it. Forcing these trees to 'grow or be grubbed' created quite a treasure chest for Salvador's successor, his son, Gabriel Olvera.
During the Winter months, Gabriel sends his crews out to tirelessly hand-dig these specimens and leave them on a root (pictured below) to harden off the root system until Gabriel finds a buyer.
Hand-digging these large specimen trees is about the most labor intensive task I've ever seen. Depending on the caliper of the tree, crews excavate down 4-6' in a 6-12+' diameter around the trunk in a space large enough to crawl through, removing dirt, rocks and cutting through massive roots as they go. Once the rootball of the tree is completely uncovered, the 'burlapping' process starts. Large sheets of burlap are pinned together and stretched around the ball as tight as possible. Then a layer of wire mesh is pinned around the rootball to keep the clay rootball together for shipping.
The entire digging process takes a 3 man crew + a driver & equipment operator an entire day. Longer, if the tree is dug outside of the short Winter months. For especially large trees, all-terrain cranes are brought in just to hoist the tree on to a trailer.
In this particular field, Rancho Viejo, the road is long and treacherous. Just to get there we drove about 2 miles on cattle paths going 4-5mph...
Rancho Viejo also has a glut of large Bradford Pears left, to survive on their own like the rest. These have turned into perfect 'instant gratification' specimens. These trees are at about half bloom right now...
This field is just one of many hidden gems owned and operated by Eagle Mountain Tree Farm... If you're ever looking for large specimen oaks, give them a call.