For some, it’s not Christmas until you find the perfect tree.
Zelinda Sullivan, a Jacksonville native and loyal customer at the Justice Tree Farm, prefers freshly cut trees.
That’s one of many reasons she frequents the farm in Jacksonville, she said. Another reason, she added, was the ambiance of the farm, which her grandson always enjoys.
“You can’t go wrong buying from a family-owned business,” she said. “Sharing this tradition with the youngest generation is just great. You go some places and they’re all the same tree. This place just offers you more of a selection — something special that you’ll remember.”
Picking out a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving is something that sets the mood for Christmas. Decorating and planning for Christmas Day is something she won’t start before she has a tree because it “doesn’t feel right.”
Frasier Furs are the “premium” Christmas tree and also the most commonly purchased, according to Carolyn Justice of the Justice Tree Farm, who expects to sell upward of 1,000 trees this winter if everything goes according to plan. Her trees are cut down in Alleghany County and were shipped to the family farm a few days prior to Thanksgiving. Because Frasier Furs cannot grow at lower altitudes, the trees must be imported and sold. Native trees available for purchase include White Pines and Cedars, which can be freshly cut in their fields.
Justice expects an increase in tree sales this year due to less tree lots scheduled to open across Onslow County, she said.
“The best part about selling Christmas trees since we are a family owned business is being around our family for nearly two months,” Justice said. “It’s amazing because we have a lot of loyal customers and seeing their kids growing up each year is something special. Being able to spend Christmas with my family and more than 800 other families is something pretty special.”
Prices for Frasier Christmas trees vary from $20 to $150 throughout the county. The cost is calculated to include shipping, length of growth and availability, she said.
“The biggest challenge is that it takes a lot of work from prepping the trees, bringing in the trees, hanging them up for people to see and then cutting, trimming and bagging,” Justice said. “Just providing the full service and ensuring everyone gets the full experience is our main mission.”
At Heathers General Store in Hubert, the trees are selling quicker than usual, according to Jonathan Wells, an employee at the store. With prices ranging from $30 to $140, the store hopes to sell more than 400 of their Ashe County trees this holiday season, he said.
“Meeting all the people and seeing all the kids’ reactions and their excitement is what makes it all worth it,” he said. “It’s good to know that a Christmas tree means so much to people. It’s good knowing that we can help to make their Christmas enjoyable and hopefully the best they’ve ever had.”
And the experts say there are a few things to look for when buying a Christmas tree:
“Bend the branches of the tree when you find one you like,” said Jerry Robbins of Santa’s Choice Christmas Trees. “If you bend the branches, they shouldn’t break. They should spring right back up.”
Additional tips include making sure the tree has been standing in water, the tree’s needles do not easily fall off and the trunk is cut after purchase to allow maximum water absorption, according to Robbins.
“The fresher the tree is the larger branch you can bend,” Robbins said. “Other than the bend test, all you need to do is make sure it’s a pretty tree that you like.”
Weather also will dictate how fresh the trees will remain. Seventy-degree weather will cause a tree to become brittle, but anything below 50 degrees will keep help a tree maintain its freshness, he said.
The only real requirement, he said, is to have a stand and an imagination. Decorations differ person-to-person but as long as you have a stand, you can stand up a tree, he said.
“Always keep your tree’s water source topped off,” Robbins said. “You never want the base of the tree to be dry. That’s when your tree is going to start to die.”
Jacksonville Public Safety Fire Services offers these tips for tree safety:
- Verify artificial trees are labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
- Choose a fresh tree with green needles
- Make sure a fresh tree has an ample water source to prevent fires
- All trees should be at least three feet away from a heat source such as a fireplace, radiator, candle or heat vents.
- Trees should also not prevent access to an exit.
- Lit candles should never be placed in a tree as decoration
- Turn all lights off on trees, whether real or artificial, before leaving home or going to bed.