When Marcie Garis, co-owner of Collins Round Mountain Orchard, took a drive through the orchard Tuesday morning, she said the scene was “deadly beautiful.”
The 150-plus acres of fruit trees and vegetable gardens were covered in a thick sheet of ice.
During the winter months, the trees are full of dormant buds. Garis along with husband Racy live on the orchard and spend their days preparing for the harvest season.
When Monday night’s rain began to turn to sleet and ice, the couple was in the process of pruning their trees in preparation for the blossoms that will come in March.
“We’re in the middle of pruning, so [the weather] halts that,” Marcie said. “We have to wait until all the ice is off.”
Although the ice and snow may only last for a few days, the winter weather can have lasting impacts on the orchard’s production, affecting sales and the family’s income.
“The single worst thing that happens with an ice storm is it can crack the limbs on the peach trees,” Marcie said.
Marcie further explained if the ice doesn’t break limbs off initially, it could make them weak.
“They may still bear fruit,” she said, “but when it bears fruit they can get heavy and break.”
During the last major ice storm in 2001, Marcie said Collins Round Mountain Orchard lost hundreds of trees.
She said she doesn’t anticipate that level of damage this time around, but if a tree is broken or split, it takes three and a half years for the orchard to replace what was lost.
“We have to replant and it’s three and a half years before that new tree begins to produce fruit,” Marcie said.
The orchard is located just south of the Conway city limits at 159 Mill Pond Rd.
It is open to the public during the harvest season — from June to October — when people can come to pick their own peaches, nectarines, plums, blackberries, watermelon, tomatoes, vegetables, muscadine grapes and apples.
Call 501-327-0450 for opening dates and harvest season information. Visit the orchard on the web at www.collinsorchards.com.