The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

December 3, 2012

HOLIDAY HUNTING

By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — The Christmas season is filled with many visible traditions, but maybe none more so than the avalanche of cars you see driving carefully with a attached present as big as Santa’s sleigh.

Local tree nurseries and farms are already launching out hundreds of Christmas tree-carrying vessels each weekend as families throughout the region pick out the centerpiece of their holiday decorations, cocoa in hand as they maneuver through rows of green.

Barbara Ball and her husband Scott left Rickard Nursery in Gasport with two trees, one each for their Rochester home’s living room and back porch. The Balls were joined by their daughter Ashley and her husband Marc, who grabbed a tree for their Lockport home.

“We’ve tramped long distances before,” said Ball, who brought a pole to make sure the tree didn’t stand taller than their ceiling. It helped make her picks. “I liked the size and shape, not too tall.”

Some come armed with their own handsaws (no chainsaws allowed), but others come only with wide eyes. At Sevenski’s Christmas Trees in Medina, it didn’t take long for six-year-old Adeline Castricone to pick out her family’s Christmas tree.

“She picks out the best trees,” said C.J. Castricone, who was happy to have the real thing in his Medina home. “We did fake trees for a while. (With a real tree) there’s a different smell in the house, it brings out the Christmas spirit.”

Many growers said their repeat customers often already know what varieties they want. At Roberts Christmas Tree Farm in Shelby, Michelle and Jeff Plummer of Lyndonville swiftly chose a concolor fir, a variety with a strong citrusy scent that is becoming increasingly popular.

“I like the smell and needle length,” Michelle said as the tree was baled. “It has stiff branches. The cats won’t tip it over.”

While other tree choosers can take hours to make their final decision, the process of developing the trees is designed for the patient, hard-working type. It takes at least eight years for many of the popular varieties to reach the right height.

For established growers it’s not so bad. Pete Rickard’s nursery has been in his family since 1949 and he has grown Christmas trees for more than 15 years.

“When you have expertise from growing trees in the nursery, Christmas trees are easy after that,” said Rickard, who starts his seedlings, cut from an existing tree, in a greenhouse before planting them after two years of growth. “You have to shear to keep weeds out so they grow full on the bottom.”

Jim Enderby has hand-planted 7 and 1/2 acres of trees at Ponderosa Tree Farm, which he described as his hobby — a time-consuming but enjoyable one for the retired electrician.

“They can be difficult to maintain,” Enderby said. “I trim them in the summer, it’s very important but takes about a month. I touched them up in the fall.”

Anthony Cicciarelli just opened Anthony’s Christmas Trees on Johnson Road in Lockport after caring for several wide rows of trees on days off from his job at Verizon. He started with seedlings more than a decade ago in a former tomato field, this year’s growth on his douglas firs and blue spruces shot up more than a foot this year.

“It’s a nice retirement project,” Cicciarelli said. “It feels good after doing a lot of work trimming and irrigating ... they got a lot of attention when they were first growing.”

David Sevenski has operated a small tree farm at his Bates Road upholstery business for nearly a quarter century. He noted that there are many benefits of the tree-growing operations beyond the Christmas cheer.

During the year, they provide shelter for animals and return oxygen to the environment while growing on land that’s not ideal for other crops. Sheared off branches make good wreaths and unsold trees find use as in lawns as landscaping elements, in ponds as anchored fish habitats and as habitats for birders raising pheasants.

There’s also the benefit of seeing the same happy faces year-after-year, something all the growers agreed on.

“You get to see families grow,” Sevenski said.

“It’s great to see families enjoying themselves,” Gary Roberts said at his Salt Works Road farm.

“It’s the best time of the year,” Enderby said. “The kids come out and have a ball.”

The atmosphere is an enjoyable one, especially when the trees aren’t always present. Niagara Produce in Clarence has sold trees from the Carolinas and other big tree producers for more than 50 years, the last 20 inside the Transit Road shop.

“The smell is terrific,” said Richard Dorr, Niagara Produce’s secretary-treasurer. “This is a great time of the year. People are happier, more friendly.”

It’s a season that starts earlier every year as Christmastime creeps further into November. Dorr said he had trees being purchased before Thanksgiving, a far cry from years past when the busiest times where right before Christmas Eve.

At the Ponderosa Tree Farm, taggers seeking to claim their trees start dropping by just after Labor Day. Enderby puts bows on those trees, but the decorated one visible from Salt Works Road is the one his wife chose.

There’s many Christmas traditions, but wives, girlfriends and kids making the final tree decisions may secretly be the strongest.

CTFANY Top Ten Tips for Tree Care 1 Keep tree in a cool, shady place like the garage until ready to bring indoors. 2 Saw 1/4 inch off bottom of trunk prior to placing the tree in stand. 3 Make a cut perpendicular to the axis of the stem, not at angles or a v-shaped cut. 4 Make sure to place tree in water-holding stand immediately after making cut. 5 Stand must be able to hold enough water for the size of the tree. 6 Use warm water for the first fill of the stand. 7 Maintain an adequate water level always. Check water level every day. 8 Check water levels twice per day in the first few days. A tree will absorb the most water after it is recently cut and placed in water. 9 Make sure tree is displayed away from heat sources. Always check electrical devices like lights and other decorations before placing on the tree. 10 Avoid spraying preservatives or fire retardants on tree. Some of these products actually increase moisture loss. The most fire-retardant tree is one that is properly watered.

Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.