Passion and experience of Victor Kraus leaves lasting legacy for industry
Vratislav (Victor) Kraus knew how to create the perfect tree. It’s a legacy he passed onto his family business and in turn to the industry he loved.
“When it came to trees, my father was stickler for perfection,” says his daughter Sylvia Kraus, who now owns and operates V. Kraus Nurseries Limited in Carlisle with three of her sisters, while all five sisters are shareholders.
Victor Kraus was born in 1923 in Valvary, Czechoslovakia. His father Joseph Kraus Sr. operated a nursery there, and over the years shared his love of growing plants with his young son Vratislav.
As a young man, Victor moved to Germany, Switzerland and France where he apprenticed at a variety of nurseries. In 1950, Victor landed in Canada to escape the communists who were taking over Czechoslovakia. That same year he met a young lady at the Czech National Picnic in Scarborough. She too had fled Czechoslovakia to escape communist rule.
They were married in 1951. The couple settled in Carlisle, where they began their nursery.
For the first few years, Victor would cultivate the five-and-a-half acres of land with a team of horses. He grew rose bushes and fruit trees, which soon captured the attention of people from miles around to view the rows of beautiful blooms along Centre Road.
By 1961, both the nursery and the family saw some vigourous growth. The couple was now working 28 acres of land, while raising five daughters. As happens with many family-operated nurseries, the girls grew to a certain age they began to help out with the various duties at the nursery. Not realizing it at the time, the girls were gaining valuable experience for later years.
Over the next couple of decades, the size of the nursery increased to 1,000 acres and many additional employees. V. Kraus Nurseries has earned its reputation as one of Canada’s leading sources of plant material.
Victor’s passion for horticulture, combined with his willingness to experiment with new techniques, soon had the industry taking notice of his methods of planting and pruning.
The specific manner that he insisted each tree be pruned depended upon the ultimate designation or purpose that the tree would serve. Street trees had to be trained to follow one pattern, whereas a chosen specimen for home garden landscape needed to be pruned quite differently. The same rule was applied to different fruit trees. Whether for wholesale or individual home garden production, trees had to be trained from a very early age to grow in a way that would ensure a straight and sturdy central leader and lateral branches that would eventually proliferate with flowers and fruit.
Victor believed that hard pruning a young tree is essential in order to establish the main architectural framework of the plant. Over-crowding branches are quickly eliminated to insure long-term stability. This practise is counter-intuitive to many who would prefer to sculpt trees in such a way that they appear bushy and attractive from the get-go.
Victor passed away in 2005 and Eva in 2016. Their daughters are Eva, Joao, Irene, Linda, Sylvia and Olga.
Sylvia says, “Although his demanding nature could be challenging for employees and others who worked close with him, I like to believe that his obsession with precision produced hundreds of thousands of straight and sturdy trees that continue today to provide pleasure to many.”
Today, the company begun by Victor and Eva continues his philosophy: To grow quality nursery stock which is structurally sound and of a superior shape.