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Just the right tree at Christmastime

The holidays can mean different things for different people but an almost universal sign of the season is the evergreen tree that becomes a centerpiece in many living rooms.

Manager Patrick Doyle and employee Sam Austett hold up some potted Christmas trees at Benjamin Tree Farm in St. Jacobs. [elena maystruk / the observer]
Whether you love the fresh scent of a real tree or plan to forego the prickly mess for an artificial tree, options abound. From Elmira’s Scouts to Belgian Nursery in Breslau, those who sell them are coming into the last days of a busy selling spree.

“It’s a tradition that people have had with their families since they’ve been young,” said manager Patrick Doyle as the annual visits to the Benjamin Tree Farm located on Benjamin Road in Woolwich Township come into full swing.

“It’s a tradition that we’ve built and that’s what we are trying to sell – it’s the experience,” he said of the customers that take the time to come out as a family to chop down their own Christmas tree.

There are a number of trees best suited to be grown in local soil, Doyle explained. Visitors can get the traditional holiday experience by toppling a white spruce, balsam fir or Colorado blue spruce, which has a smoky-blue tint.

Not all Christmas trees are alike, however, and those who know a thing or two about evergreens can take their pick of pre-cut trees shipped in from other locations around Canada.

“There is a large majority of people that pick our pre-cut trees. They are specialty trees: they just grow better in the soil that we don’t have here,” he said.

Those trees are ordered from as far as Nova Scotia and British Columbia, as well as Penetanguishene and Langton, Ontario, where soils are better suited for what Doyle calls “premium Christmas trees.”

It’s not just axe-wielding adults who love to get their hands on the conical evergreens: after all, the tree is a sure sign Saint Nick is on his way. Christmas tree nursery tours are held daily during this season at the tree farm, where young students can see firsthand how the operation works and how trees are grown, cut and trussed up to place in the car.

In Elmira, the 1st Elmira Scouts have been busy selling their trees. With more than a third of the stock already adoring people’s living rooms, the Scouts, parents and volunteers continue to raise money for future activities through the annual venture.

Every year in September the Scouts place an order for close to 350 Christmas trees from Somerville Nurseries to be sold in Elmira’s Gore Park, said the group’s commissioner, Brian Soehner.

It’s one of the last busy weeks for the employees at Benjamin Tree Farm as Craig Eby prepares a Christmas tree for sale.

The kids contribute a lot of time and effort into the holiday project by participating in the process from beginning to end.

Scouts erect their own tree inside the bandstand in the park, with younger members coming out to help decorate and wind the lights around branches. Later, various members take shifts selling the trees to locals.

“They have to help build the tree lot, the fence. The children 5 to 7, they help decorate the tree and everybody helps out – they take a different shift,” he said of Scout activities this time of year.

For those who would rather stay inside and not brave the piney allergens, there are trees for you as well. A variety of artificial alternatives are available through stores like Breslau’s Belgian Nursery, where they sell only artificial trees. The business has seen the demand for fake trees increase over the years, said co-owner Rosie Lombaert.

“The clientele are developing allergies and that’s why they need fake treesm, because they can’t put a real one in. That’s a group that we’re finding every year we’re getting a few more,” she said.

With artificial trees there is no dealing with a tangled mess, as many can be found with lights already wound in the branches with frosted tips to emulate fresh snow, Lombaert said.

Live trees also require constant watering and have too short of a shelf life to accommodate the early birds who like to bring out their decorations in November, Lombaert explained. And not everyone can be happy with just one tree.

“It’s just easier to have a little tree decorated that’s artificial. And they can have them in different rooms then.”

She has seen customers who love to decorate for the holidays buy one large tree in addition to a few smaller ones to place throughout their house. Lombart remembers one such customer fondly:

“The days get so short and it gets darker and darker so at least she’s got colour in her house.”

 

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