O Christmas Tree

December 03, 1998

By Kate Coleman / Staff Writer

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Artificial Christmas trees seem to look better every year, but many American families buy real trees - 33 million in 1997 - for their homes at the holidays, according to information on the Web site of National Christmas Tree Association.

Cut trees are available at area retail outlets and shopping center parking lots, sometimes sold by local nonprofit groups.

Christmas trees also can be found at "choose and cut" farms like Gary Cline's South Mountain Plantation near Boonsboro.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Cline, a Wheaton, Md., native, bought his 22-acre hillside farm 18 years ago. He cleared locust and raspberries, built a house for his parents and, along with his wife, three children and Precious, an adopted black Labrador, looks over more than 25,000 Christmas trees to a view of Pleasant Valley stretching beyond Antietam National Battlefield.

As he walks through the rows of trees, pruning shears always at the ready, Cline says Christmas tree farming is a year-round business - planting, feeding, fighting pests, shearing and shaping.


His is a family operation, and many of his customers are families who drive up the mountain and walk through row after row of several varieties of evergreens in search of the perfect Christmas tree. For Cline, that's what choose and cut is all about.

Even if people cut what Cline might consider a "dog" of a tree, it's the experience that counts, Cline believes. "They got together and did this as a family."

Scotch PineScotch pine

The Scotch pine has been widely planted for the purpose of producing Christmas tree, because its stiff branches are well suited to holding light or heavy ornaments.

The somewhat prickly needles, ranging from bright to dark to bluish green, are produced in clusters of two.

Scotch pines are known for excellent needle retention and good "keepability," according to National Christmas Tree Association. In a water-filled container, a Scotch pine will remain fresh for three to four weeks.

White PineWhite pine

The white pine has soft, flexible, bluish-green to silver-green 2 1/2-inch needles in bundles of five.

For Christmas trees, sheared trees - those shaped by trimming - are preferred, although some people believe shearing causes trees to become too dense for ornaments, according to information on the Web site of National Christmas Tree Association.

White pines don't have a strong fragrance. They are reported to result in fewer allergic reactions, according to National Christmas Tree Association.

Douglas FirDouglas fir

The Douglas fir, with short, soft, blue-green needles, is one of the most popular Christmas trees. This tree is Gary Cline's pick for several reasons:

With a thinner trunk, it's lighter than a pine tree.

The needles are soft and easy on decorating hands.

Unlike pines, which lose needles every year and have older needles on the inside of the tree, fir trees hold their needles longer.

Blue spruceBlue spruce

The blue spruce, officially the Colorado Blue Spruce, is the leading ornamental tree among spruces, according to information in a Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association brochure.

It's a dense, cone-shaped evergreen with stout, prickly 3/4- to 1 1/4-inch needles. The blue spruce is becoming more popular as a Christmas tree because of its symmetrical form and bluish needles. It has an excellent natural shape and needle retention, according to information on the Web site of National Christmas Tree Association.

Fraser firFraser fir

Fraser fir, sometimes called Southern balsam, was named for Sir John Fraser, a Scottish botanist who explored the southern Appalachian mountains in the late 18th century.

The pyramid-shaped tree has flat, 1/2- to 1-inch long dark green needles with round tips. With its good needle retention, pleasant fragrance and classic Christmas tree shape, it's a popular species for the holiday season.

Caring for your real Christmas tree:

When you bring your tree home, cut a quarter of an inch off the bottom of the trunk and place in a container of water.

To help the tree retain moisture, keep it out of the wind and sun.

Just before you put the tree in the stand, make a second cut - about a quarter of an inch - off the base of the trunk to open the tree so it can take water. Put fresh water in the stand.

Check your tree daily to make sure the water level hasn't dropped below the bottom of the tree. It may need as much as a gallon of water every day.

- Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association

The Herald-Mail Articles