Reid Armstrong – Cutting your own Christmas tree: It grows on you
November 26, 2010
Stumbling out of a tryptophan-induced fog, the masses will head out this week in search of all things Christmas.
The hunt begins with the ultimate Christmas tree. For folks with any sense in their heads and money in their pockets, it will mean a trip to the local nursery to browse the manicured selection of farm-grown trees.
For me, it will likely mean another tearful trudge through the snow with the kids. Last year, we headed out into the forest with our $10 neon tag on the first day of tree hunting season.
It was a typical holiday debacle. Seven paces into the forest, I spotted a PERFECT tree. But Dad Man said: Let’s keep going and see what else we can find. This is supposed to be an ADVENTURE.
An hour down the trail and 12 of my suggestions rejected, the kids were crying that they were hungry and cold, and Dad Man had been out of sight for a good 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, we kept passing families with tarps and gear sleds, pulling perfect trees with smiles on their faces. I heard one little girl say: “That was so awesome,” as her family zoomed by on skis with their fluffy little tree on a sled.
Meanwhile, my kids were rolling out of the toboggan into the snow, screaming for snacks that I didn’t have, pulling mittens off – and we were heading DEEPER INTO THE WOODS.
Miles in, carrying two preschoolers, visions of well-lit rows of Fraser firs began dancing in my head.
Here’s the thing: In the forest, the perfect cone shaped, bushy tree simply doesn’t exist.
Margaret Bergman, who has operated Margaret’s Garden in Tabernash for 11 years, knows what goes into growing the perfect Christmas tree.
“People think I cut these trees down from the forest,” Margaret laughed. The Christmas trees neatly lining nursery lots are actually a crop that come from farms, she said.
Somewhere along the way, nursery trees got a bad rap, Margaret said. But, shopping for a nursery tree allows you to hand-select the attributes you like best. People who want a house filled with the smell of Christmas may choose a balsamtree, Margaret said. The Scotch pine has long needles and sturdy branches, making it great for big ornaments. Folks who want the softer look may go for the White Pine with its long needles and subtle scent.
Margaret even sells little Charlie Brown trees for $16, saving people like me from the hike.
And, then there are artificial trees, which hit the world by storm in the 1970s as people decided they could save a tree by purchasing a fake one instead.
Sure, they don’t have to be watered and they don’t lose their needles, but (plant your tongue in your cheek) artificial trees are made entirely of lead and chemicals by children in Chinese factories (according to the Coalition for Real Trees).
For the $100-$300 price tag, artificial trees still only last about 5 years, Margaret said. Plus they come in cardboard boxes and once they wind up in the landfill, they are not biodegradable.
Real trees can be recycled. Margaret chips hers and sells them for erosion control and mulching.
For every farmed Christmas tree that’s harvested, three seedlings are planted in its place. And, from the beginning, a new tree puts out more oxygen than a full-grown.
“Young trees have to transpire more than older trees,” Margaret said.
Margaret added that she has many customers who get fake trees and go back to the real thing a few years later.
But, there may be no help for die-hards like me.
Eventually, last year, we found a 16-foot behemoth that had to be dragged 2 miles back to the car and then hacked off at the top and bottom to fit in the living room (it kind of created the illusion that the tree was growing through my ceiling.)
However you get your Christmas tree, there’s sort of a magic to them once they’re up, bringing light, joy and memories into the house.
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