A 65-foot white fir was lifted into place with a crane Tuesday, November 7, 2017, on the west lawn of the state Capitol. Lynne Tolmachoff of CalFire explains how it got there and what happens next. Randy Pench The Sacramento Bee
A 65-foot white fir was lifted into place with a crane Tuesday, November 7, 2017, on the west lawn of the state Capitol. Lynne Tolmachoff of CalFire explains how it got there and what happens next. Randy Pench The Sacramento Bee

Seeds

Debbie Arrington digs into gardening news

Debbie Arrington

If you cut your own Christmas tree, don’t delay – they’re fresher but fewer this year

By Debbie Arrington

darrington@sacbee.com

November 22, 2017 12:30 PM

UPDATED November 24, 2017 11:22 AM

This year’s Christmas trees really appreciated last year’s wet winter.

Visitors to Northern California tree farms can see the difference. Their favorite firs look fresher, the leaves plumper, the branches fuller. What a difference water makes!

“They loved it!” said Dee Kobervig, president of the El Dorado County Christmas Tree Growers Association and a longtime tree farmer. “The reservoirs are full, too, so we irrigated like crazy to catch up on growth.”

Five years of drought stunted many trees – and prevented farmers from planting more. That’s caused a shortage of bigger trees at farms in Apple Hill and other popular areas.

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“We had to close early last year, the first time in 25 years,” said Kobervig, who co-owns Crystal Creek Tree Farm in Camino. “Lots of farms closed early. You have to keep inventory for the following year; you can’t just cut them all down.

“And demand was crazy! The Sacramento region is growing. So many people are moving to Folsom, which is close (to Apple Hill). People want to get out with their families and start new traditions.”

There are fewer farms, she noted. Some farms have switched from trees to grapes in recent years. Other farms shut down as their owners retired. That’s also cramped tree supply.

“The inventory right now looks pretty good,” Kobervig added, “but I suggest people come early to make sure they get the tree they want.”

Recent rain has kept the trees looking (and smelling) fresh.

“Rain does not hurt,” she said. “It helps wash (the trees) off. They’re plumping up; they’re still growing! We haven’t had a freeze yet; that helps set the needles. But other than that, the trees couldn’t look better.”

Notoriously slow-growing Silver Tips – “the Cadillac of trees” – are still the most requested at local farms, Kobervig said. But other firs – notably Nordmann and Noble – are gaining popularity as more farms grow them. Priced per foot, trees range from $30 to $90, a slight increase over last year. Some farms offer one price for any tree; for example, Crystal Creek charges a flat rate of $60.

With Thanksgiving so early this year, patrons to Apple Hill also will find plenty of fresh apples (and fresh baked apple treats) along with fresh Christmas trees.

“The apple farms are staying open longer,” Kobervig said. “A lot of them will have apple pies and cider, too. That’s just more reasons to come visit.”

How to make a ribbon angel for your Christmas tree

Sacramento's Falcon Lee creates a tree-full of handmade decorations every Christmas. Here, he shows off how to make a quick and easy ribbon angel.

Debbie Arrington The Sacramento Bee