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December 13, 2013

A tree-mendous tradition

Evergreens an enduring symbol of the Christmas season

(Continued)

Making the purchase

With such a huge market in North America each winter, Christmas tree farming is big business. Pennsylvania and Michigan are the largest producers of Christmas trees in the United States, Condon said. In New England, Maine cuts its share of the holiday favorite, as do some small farms in New Hampshire, Lamprey said.

But both men purchase trees grown, nurtured and cut in Canada.

“The Christmas tree farmers really know how to shear trees these days,” Lamprey said. “Proper shearing produces tight trees, with lots of branches close together. And it produces more perfectly shaped trees.”

The freshness of a tree depends on when it was cut at the farm for transport. Prematurely cut trees end up drying out, resulting in a short life in warm living rooms because needles start to fall quickly after purchase.

“You want to cut after two or three really hard frosts because that’s what sets the needles,” Condon said. “Balsams and Frasers aren’t native here because they need a cooler summer than we have. That’s why they do well in Canada.”

One way to judge a tree’s freshness is to run a hand up a branch and analyze the needles that come off. If they snap in half when bent, they’re dry, but if the needles are pliant, fold over without snapping and give off a nice smell, chances are the tree is fresh.

While some arrive and find their evergreen soul mates in five minutes, others need longer, like two or three hours. And then there are those annual customers who are known to be so picky that nursery owners wince when they see them arrive in the parking lot.

“Although she was very loyal and came all the way over to buy her tree here, my aunt was one of those people I hated to see show up,” Condon said, chuckling. “You just couldn’t please her. She was on a quest. She’d spend hours here trying to find the perfect tree.”

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