, Newburyport, MA


December 13, 2013

A tree-mendous tradition

Evergreens an enduring symbol of the Christmas season


“It’s true that the balsam fir’s fragrance is a big part of what many cherish as the smell of Christmas,” Condon said. “Along with holding their needles longer, Frasers are favored by many because their branches can better deal with heavy ornaments. Frasers still smell nice, but their smell just isn’t as strong as the balsam.”

The Scotch pine, so popular a few decades ago, has fallen out of vogue, Lamprey and Condon said.

“Scotch pine are grown around here, and they were popular for people who wanted to cut their own Christmas tree,” Condon said. “But few people ask us for them. They’re almost too difficult to decorate because their needles are so sharp.”

At both businesses this year, the average seller is a 6- to 7-foot tree costing about $50. For Condon, it’s a premium Fraser; for Lamprey, Frasers and balsams are running neck and neck.

“I remember when I was a kid, trees were costing $1 a foot,” Condon said. “Today, they can run as high as $10 a foot.”

A quick look around the area finds that live trees run from about $20 and up, with price depending on the quality of the tree and its height.

Christmas trees are graded, Lamprey said. There’s the premium cut, which is “perfect in every way,” he said, then there’s the No. 1, which has a bare spot “that you can hide in a corner,” Lamprey said. And there’s a No. 2, which can have multiple bare areas, he said.

And, yes, there are people who look for a significantly challenged tree, affectionately known as the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. They want it for all the right reasons, Lamprey said.

“We always have two or three people every year who are looking for a Charlie Brown tree,” Lamprey said. “It’s usually lopsided, with a lot of bare spots. They want to give it a good home. I can appreciate that.”

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