Life is a garden: Arrival of the Christmas trees
The Christmas trees have arrived. I always know it’s Christmas season because this time of year everyone in the nurseries has sticky fingers, a pocket knife on their hip, and wears clothes they don’t hesitate to ruin. It means the Christmas trees have arrived. Trees arrive so early because the process of placing each tree in place so that they can be inspected from all sides is a long process. We want the trees to be able to be purchased the week before Thanksgiving, as this is when many people get together with their families and have a tradition of picking out their trees while everyone is together for the last time. until the start of the holidays.
The trees are tightly tied with twine. One of the reasons they’re tied up like this is because of the shipping; they can get more on a truck that way. Another reason is that most Frazier trees for sale in Mississippi were trucked in from North Carolina. The land in North Carolina where trees are tended and grown at around 2,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level grow on the rugged slopes of the Appalachians. There is no way to walk down the cut trees in these mountains, so it is easier to send helicopters with large suspended platforms. They arrive low in the areas where the workers have cut, tied and stacked a quantity of trees on a platform. The trees are loaded onto the platform and transported to where the 18 wheels wait in line to be loaded so that the trees can be scattered across the country. It seems like Mother Nature never fails to remind us who’s boss again by sending bad weather to this region during Expedition Week just to make the logistical nightmare a little more difficult.
The trees are sized and classified while they have not yet been cut. The sizers will use different colored ribbons to indicate the size of the tree as they are sold to us by the foot. I have been at the receiving end of 18 wheels full of trees, wreaths and garlands for 44 years. (Well, I missed four or five Christmases at home walking around). And I can tell you that in some years the guy who sizes and grades trees may be very generous or not so much. Sometimes the tree with a blue ribbon signifying that a six to seven foot tree is easily eight feet tall or the reverse can be true. We don’t really know what we’re going to get until we open the truck doors, unload the trees, and cut the strings. We rely on the integrity of the producer to send the best. We have known for years that we received bad trees. It’s a disaster.
Families come to collect their Christmas tree with the hope that it will be the best ever. It is rare that we have a bad charge. I can think of twice this has happened. But it keeps me awake every year the night before the trees are expected to arrive.
About 28 years ago, Mimi and I left for North Carolina on a reconnaissance trip to a Christmas tree farm. We visited six gigantic Christmas tree growers to see who grows the best trees and of course to hike the Appalachian Trail. We weren’t married yet but I was thinking about it very hard just before this trip. Once we found our favorite producer and made a deal with them, we headed to a camping area near the Appalachian Trail. We were in our Technicolor Volkswagen camper van with two bikes attached to the back. This poor van did its best to climb these hills. We were those people you follow on these mountain roads that drive you crazy while you wait for a chance to get there right away so you can pass them. With the crazy paint job on this pickup truck, I think there were 10 abstract colors and shapes, we had a lot of horns and hand signals, some cool, some less. We had a laugh from people’s reactions. We had no worries in the world other than hoping to reach the top so we could start a hike. We made it to the campsite near the trailhead towards Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the smoky mountains at 6,600 feet above sea level.
As it is prone to in the Smokies, it started to rain hard and didn’t stop for two solid days and nights. Meanwhile, if it ever showed any signs of sagging, we would be riding the bike just to avoid being too cramped before a good long hike. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried camping in a Volkswagen camper van, but it’s quite an art. The top opens to make a bed and some headroom, downstairs is a small kitchen and a table with two benches. You have to take turns moving when you are in the rain for two days. We got along wonderfully except a few times when we got a little too competitive in our 88th game of spades or Uno. None of us like to lose. On the third day, the weather improved. We had a four day window in which we would have relatively less rain. If you’ve hiked these mountains you know there will be wet times. We were prepared as the clouds and fog up there create incredible scenery.
We hitchhiked to the trailhead in the back of someone’s truck, threw our backpacks and started the hike with lots of energy built up from the rainy wait. The first thing I noticed was that I was going to have a hard time following Mimi but of course I wasn’t going to talk about it. It seems that each of his steps was two of mine. I should walk faster. We found great places to set up camp and cook our meals every night and slept very well after keeping my poker face up while struggling to keep up with Miss Cross Country Champion. Halfway through this hike I decided that when I got home I was going to buy an engagement ring and ask Mimi if she would be my wife. She was more than I expected and we both love the same things. Plus, being barely able to keep up with her pace made me even crazier for her. It’s been like that ever since.
We got home, downhill this time, with no engine problem. The van had had another successful trip and I was hopefully with my future fiancé. Mimi and I still enjoy hiking and camping. We also still love the RV and have racked up some camper overtime. We have an RV that we have often used to camp in Mississippi and Alabama campgrounds. We put on our kayaks and bikes and spend the weekends in good weather getting away from it all. We also have a 1967 greyhound bus which is equipped for road trips and I have a small vintage camper van that I use for deer camp weekends. We had two Volkswagen RVs and our pride and joy, a bright yellow Volkswagen 21 van from 1966. Guess we’re officially camper crazy.
We also have a yurt in our garden on a wooden deck which we use during the winter months. There is a king size bed, a heater and space to brew and sip a cup of coffee. The floors are covered with Moroccan rugs and you can imagine the decor Mimi set up with solar lights. We sleep there more than at home during the nights of good weather. It’s a good way to stay away from the news and end another day of work. Not only did we have a great scouting trip, but we also built a great relationship with a Christmas tree grower that we used for years until they sold to a bigger company and the quality begins to deteriorate.
We have had excellent quality and no issues with the Christmas tree supplier that we have used for the past four years. I think there should be a shortage of Christmas trees this year with the fires in the west. These areas will look east for their trucks full of trees.
Glad I completed ours in May, so I hope nothing funny is going on. I think it would be a good idea to come early, like now, to choose your tree. We can set it up, water it and deliver the tree to you on the date you choose. I know of two places in our area that usually sell a huge amount of trees that threw the napkin on the Christmas tree. I think for some of the places that open seasonally like produce stands, it’s just not worth it. Those places that stay open 12 months have to sort of make Christmas trees. It’s not a money generator, but it helps customers see all the other cool things happening in garden centers in December.
When shopping for unique gifts for the people you care about, garden centers are great places to shop. The gifts can be aimed at the gardeners on your list, or they can just be quirky and different from the gifts you might buy at some of the more traditional shopping spots. I tell Mimi throughout the year that if one person can’t knock out Christmas presents for everyone on their list in their store, they just need glasses.