Growing up, going to cut a live Christmas tree was my favourite part of the holidays. After arriving at Ayers Tree Farm in Hawkestone, we’d walk around the farm to visit the animals. Then, we’d pack ourselves onto a large sleigh and set out into the fields. A snowball fight would usually breakout while everyone picked their ideal tree. Then, we’d all head back to the farm for hot apple cider.
Picking out a tree is a familiar tradition for those who celebrate Christmas, and Christmas tree farmers witness those traditions being passed on from generation to generation. Blair Quesnel at Quesnel Forest-Tree Goods, says that they’ve seen the same families return to their farm for almost thirty years. “I’ve seen their kids grow up,” says Quesnel. “They just say I’m part of Christmas.” Thinking about the traditions established at Drysdale’s Tree Farm, Doug Drysdale recalls a letter he received from a long-time patron: “A family had been coming out here since 1973. As the kids grew older and had kids, they kept coming. Their father had become very sick and, between the kids, they decided it wasn’t the best year for Dad to come out to the farm. He got wind of it—and no way. The father didn’t make it until Christmas that year, but he made it to the farm that one last time.”
Taking the family to pick out a live Christmas tree can form some amazing traditions, but a live tree also makes every year a little unique. As Debra Lidstone from Barrie’s Garden Centre says, “When you decorate an artificial tree, it winds up being the same thing year after year. But with a fresh tree, even if you use the same decorations, the trees are all slightly different. It makes it more personal.” One year the tree might be a little short, the next a little tall; some are squat, and some are lean. These differences give each Christmas a different kind of memory; “We really are in the memory business,” says Drysdale.
It’s truly a labour of love for Christmas tree farmers, especially since your average Christmas tree takes about ten to twelve years to grow. Buying a live tree not only helps support farmers’ hard work, it also helps support the natural environment. “It’s a crop that provides oxygen and a habitat for wildlife, and it holds ground water, so you don’t get rapid runoffs,” says Quesnel. As opposed to artificial trees that wind up in the landfill, when you dispose your live tree, it usually ends up being recycled, says Drysdale. “Just about every municipality collects their Christmas trees and chips them—and they use those chips as mulch on city paths and in parks.” So, if you haven’t already, consider trying a live Christmas tree this year. Our local farmers will thank you, you can feel good about helping the environment, and you can start a new tradition for this Christmas and all the Christmases to come!
Live Tree Tips
Make sure you have a fresh cut on the bottom of your trunk before you set up your tree. Pre-Cut trees harvested before the frost may last longer. This is because trees draw water better if they were cut while their “juices were still flowing,” says Lidstone.
Be sure your tree stand holds at least one gallon of water, including the water the tree trunk displaces. Pine needles need moisture to stay on the tree and off your floor!
If you have the same tree stand as you did in 1982, it’s time for an upgrade. The Christmas trees we use now are much heavier and fuller than they used to be. Balsam and Fraser Firs require a hefty stand to support them!
To make cleanup easier, Lidstone bundles the plastic wrapping (used for transporting the tree) and hides it underneath the tree skirt. Simply re-wrap the tree when it’s time to take it to the curb. The plastic wrap also protects the floor underneath from water spills!
by Emily Bednarz
Barrie’s Garden Centre
Drysdale’s Tree Farm
Quesnel Forest-Tree Goods