Over the hills and through the woods many families go to find just the right Christmas tree.
Live trees are part of our Christmas culture. We watch as the national Christmas Tree is lit in Washington, D.C. We marvel at the beauty of the huge tree in New York's Rockefeller Center. And who hasn't laughed at the antics of Darren McGavin in "A Christmas Story" as he searches for the perfect tree?
But today, live trees have steadily declined as artificial ones take center stage with consumers.
"Artificial tree sales outnumber live sales by 10 to 1," said Richard Rouser, nursery and landscape manager at Donzell's. "Live tree sales have been on a steady decline. Twenty years ago we sold 1,500 live trees. Today, we average around 350, but sales have leveled out now and starting to slowly come back up."
And the definition of "live" trees can be blurred.
"Cut trees are still alive," Rouser said. "And they need to be carefully taken care of to prolong how long they can stay fresh in your home. While the recommended time is two weeks, with proper care they can last up to a month or longer."
At Donzell's, those live trees are a special part of the family.
"All of our live trees are named," Rouser said. "We started this four years ago. We got the idea from a landscaping and garden group we belong to. A company based in Minnesota has been naming their trees for years so we decided to try it out. So if you come in here you will find all our lives trees have names."
For many people a live tree is a tradition that is an important part of the holiday season.
"There is nothing better then a live tree," Dean Kohler said. "They are just wonderful. The aroma (and) the natural ambiance combines with a train set under the tree to create the perfect Dickens Christmas."
For many families, the tradition of choosing the perfect tree out of the hundreds in a field is a tradition they can't imagine doing without.
"Our whole family gets involved in picking out the tree," said Jan Oravec. "Two of our three girls are coming in from out of town to join their sister and go with us out to a tree farm out in Hartville to pick out a tree and bring it home. It is a family event. We like the smell and it adds a fragrance to the house that makes everything seem more natural."
Jay Griffith was helping to bring home a fresh-cut Canaan fir tree at Moore's Tree Farm in Hartville with help from his two daughters, son-in-law and granddaughter. Griffith, a Florida resident came to visit his daughter and son-in-law in Springfield. He was planning to take his tree back to Florida with him.
"This is the first time I've cut a tree and it was a blast," Griffith said.
Moore's , which ha been in business since 1987 has helped hundreds of families find perfect trees.
Hartville resident Christine Povroznik and her family looked forward to choosing and decorating their own family Christmas tree this year.
"It's fun and the kids get to go on the sled and pick out the tree, it's a good way to create memories," Povroznik said.
Kohler admits that bringing a live tree into the family for a season can be hassle, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
"Bringing it in and taking it out can be really hard depending on the size of the tree," Kohler said. "And if you have a cat who likes to climb in it, you sometimes get a cat with sticky paws from the sap. But all in all, it is worth it."
Properly caring for your tree can also help to make the season merry and bright. Here are some of Rouser's recommendations:
• WATER DAILY.
Rouser says that trees should be checked and watered daily.
At first, they can take up to a gallon of water a day but as they absorb the water this will stabilize and slowly decline. Conditions such as size and room temperature will also affect how much water they need. The warmer a room, the more the tree will need water and a larger tree will require more then a smaller one. And it is important to keep a tree away from a heat source such as a fireplace, shove, or heaters. The key thing though is to check and water the tree daily.
• FRESH CUT.
Another import aspect of watering the tree is to give it a fresh cut after purchasing it. This needs to be done as the sap will have dried and plugged the original cut. If a fresh cut is not done, the tree cannot absorb water, which will drastically shorten the life of the tree in the home.
• POTTED TREES.
As for a true live or potted tree Rouser says that they should only be kept in the house for only about a week. After being dug up, potted trees should be kept in the garage for about a week before being brought into the house. After a week in the house, the potted trees should be taken back out to the garage for another week before replanting.
To replant the tree, the homeowner should have already dug the hole and filled it with straw and kept the dirt in the garage. After the tree has had a chance to get re-acclimated, it can be planted. Following this procedure gives the tree the best chance to survive.
• PERFECT FIT.
As for selecting a tree Rouser recommend Frazier trees.
"They are fragrant and sturdy and hold ornaments very well. They don't drop their needles if properly cared for. I don't recommend White Pine or Blue Spruce. White Pine don't hold ornaments very well and Blue Spruce have very sharp needles and are hard to decorate because of that. So I recommend the Frazier."