Christmas tree hunt offers old-time cheer
December 14, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
Families search for ‘Cadillac of trees’ at local sellers
People come to the Issaquah area from across the Puget Sound region to hunt for Christmas trees greener than Dr. Seuss’ Grinch.
OK, so artificial Christmas trees no longer resemble green pipe cleaners, but holiday revelers at tree farms and lots throughout the area said the search for a fresh tree does not compare to unpacking plastic and metal pieces from a box in the crawlspace.
Washington — the Evergreen State, after all — is the No. 6 Christmas tree-producing state in the nation.
Linda Mills — alongside husband Ken and young daughters Marilynn and Erika — trekked to Trinity Tree Farm near Issaquah in early December.
The idea to cut down a fresh tree came to the Renton resident after the family joined Mills’ parents to scope possible Christmas trees on the Olympic Peninsula on Thanksgiving.
The process captured the girls’ imaginations. So, after the family returned home, Mills made plans to find the perfect tree.
“It was like a whole day. It was such an experience for the girls,” she said. “I know it was one that they’ll remember. I think for me and my husband, it’s really important that they associate Christmas with things beyond presents.”
The family selected a fir and then decorated the evergreen together.
“It was something that the whole family could participate in,” Mills said. “They could see the whole process from the trees in the ground to the tree that has the star on it in our living room.”
Sellers offer a complete Christmas taxonomy: Douglas, Fraser, Grand, Noble, Nordmann and Turkish firs, plus blue and Norway spruces and, in some spots, white pine.
“The No. 1 tree, your Cadillac of trees, is the Noble fir,” Victor White, a lot manager for Noel Trees Limited, said Dec. 8.
The elegant evergreen is prized for Christmas because the tree has a graceful symmetry and the sturdy branches can hold substantial ornaments.
The species has another bonus: “Nobles and Frasers both last for a long time,” Trinity Tree Farms owner Glenn Dutro said.
Mills said the family spent hours strolling among the trees at Trinity Tree Farm in order to find a tree.
“It just felt more real,” she said. “It was a tradition that I think that they’re going to remember for a long time. It was just a special day.”
Christmas tree searchers and sellers said consensus is key to find the perfect — or at least the least-hated — evergreen.
Dutro said tree-related disagreements could turn someone from jolly into Ebenezer Scrooge in no time flat.
People in search of a more “green” evergreen turn to Hayes Nursery and other garden centers for potted trees.
“A lot of people are starting a new, sustainable tradition of a living Christmas tree,” Sara Meier, a certified professional horticulturalist at Hayes Nursery, said Dec. 8.
The trees must remain outdoors as much as possible in order to survive the holiday season and then be planted after Christmas. The temperature and humidity indoors can shock the plant.
The firs and spruces arrived at the Noel Trees Limited lot near the Issaquah Highlands just before Thanksgiving. The trees felt cold and stiff — or, as White described the evergreens, “like Popsicle sticks.” The evergreens soon adjusted and the needled branches unfurled.
Families started to pour onto the Christmas tree farms and lots in the days after Thanksgiving. Mills said the experience prompted her to re-examine the holiday season.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing Christmas through the eyes of my kids,” she said. “This year, they have that anticipation about it and that wonder and that innocence. It kind of makes Christmas alive again for me.”
Maria Ulrich spent the holiday season dispensing hot cider and Christmas cookies inside the historic red barn at the Enchanted Winds Tree Farm just south of Issaquah. The tree farm is a former dairy farm along Issaquah Creek.
“I really enjoy seeing people with their families,” she said. “It is such a joy.”
The lot outside Issaquah Christian Church serves a dual purpose. The old-time-style Christmas tree seller dispenses holiday greenery, but the church also raises money for humanitarian projects.
Parishioner Lance Ziesing journeyed to Bremerton, Chehalis and Olympia to pick up 700 trees just before Thanksgiving.
Throughout the holiday season, Ziesing resides in a travel trailer parked alongside the lot. The pine aroma from the evergreens and curls of wood smoke mingle in the chill air.
“Compared to a fake tree, you can actually have a fragrance,” Ziesing said.
Christmas tree sales raised $17,785 last year. The church expects to generate about $20,000 by Christmas.
The church uses proceeds from tree sales — and also a Fourth of July fireworks fundraiser — to send relief missions to Mexico.
“It’s a good feeling, quite frankly, to be able to help people,” parishioner Jim Rockstad said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.