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Christmas tree tips from North Carolina Christmas Tree Association

Do all species keep equally well after harvest? 

Certain species simply last longer and remain fresh much longer than others. Some of the best are the North Carolina Fraser fir, Balsam fir, Scotch pine and Douglas fir. Regardless of species, consumers must make the final judgment of quality by looking at, touching, feeling, smelling and shaking the tree. 

How much of the trunk should be cut off before setting up the tree? 

Removing a thin disk (1/4 to 1/2 inch) off the trunk before placing the tree in a water holding stand is all that is needed. It is always a good practice to make a new cut before putting the tree into the stand. 

What is the minimum amount of water a tree stand should hold? 

As a general rule, a tree can use up to a quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter. 
The warmer the temperature and the lower the relative humidity where the tree is displayed, the greater the amount of water required by the tree. 

If the base of the trunk has a split, will this affect the quality of the tree? 

It should not affect the ability of the tree to take up water, assuming a fresh cut is made on the base, nor have any effect on how long the tree lasts after it is displayed. 

Originally published: 2012-11-19 20:15:13
Last modified: 2012-11-19 20:15:13

Santa’s Choose and Cut Season

Justin Grimes / (

Many readers are old enough to remember striking out with their parents across the cold countryside with saw and hatchet in hand to find a tree — not just any tree — a tree that had the makings to be transformed and decorated to light up the darkness of winter. 

A tree that would fit perfectly into each family’s home; not too tall, not too short and just the right diameter, an evergreen. Recall the excitement?

Though things have changed, the tradition lives on in the High Country as the annual Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Season gets under way on area farms. Thousands of families from the Piedmont region of North Carolina and neighboring states trek into the High Country — especially during the week of Thanksgiving and first weeks of December — in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

They come for the long mountain views, weekend cabins, cozy inns and the Blue Ridge Parkway. But mostly they come for the Fraser firs, the “Cadillac of Christmas trees.”

Waiting for them are hundreds of area Christmas tree farmers who have toiled over, groomed and cared for each tree for years in preparation for this year’s special moment. And Avery County is home to some of the area’s largest Choose and Cut farms.

“We are expecting a good year; the phones have been ringing off the hook with customers wanting to know when we open,” said James Pitts, co-owner, with his wife Helen, of Sugar Plum Tree Farms. 

“We have hayrides, bonfires and provide free refreshments: cider, hot chocolate, a souvenir and marshmallows for roasting,” Pitts offered. “Santa Claus is here and our Christmas shop has more than 60,000 ornaments.” Sugar Plum Tree Farms opens this Saturday, Nov. 17.

“Well, from all indications, it’s going to be a good year,” said Cline Church of Ashe County and president of the National Christmas Tree Association. “Prices at the wholesale and retail levels are stable. We expect to sell around 30 million trees nationally. North Carolina sells more than 5 million Christmas trees each year and the Choose and Cut program accounts for at least 20 percent of all sales nationally.”

The Frazier fir grows best above 3,000 feet elevation and needs a long dormant period. North Carolina has 1,600 growers producing an estimated 50 million Fraser fir Christmas trees growing on more than 25,000 acres. Fraser fir trees represent more than 90 percent of all species grown in North Carolina.

Ashe County ranks No. 1 in trees grown, Alleghany is second and Avery and Watauga almost equal each other and are third and fourth. 

According to Steve Troxler, North Carolina’s commissioner of agriculture, “The state’s Christmas tree industry is ranked second in the nation in the number of trees harvested and is No. 1 in economic impact, monies generated.”

Each season about 250,000 trees will be harvested in the High Country during Choose and Cut, providing an enormous economic impact to the local economy, according to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, located in Boone.

The Choose and Cut Season is perfectly timed to benefit area businesses, motels, cabins, bed and breakfasts and the tourist industry; helping fill local businesses between the leaf and ski seasons. 

“Choose and Cut farms give people the Christmas experience,” Church said, “hopefully passing along the tradition. After more than 20 years of promotional support from the state, the program grows larger each season.”

Avery County Choose and Cut deals 

• Best Western Plus Mountain Lodge along with Sugar Plum Tree Farms is offering a one night’s stay in a standard room, free appetizer from Evergreen’s Restaurant, hot apple cider and cookies upon arrival and one voucher to Sugar Plum Tree Farm where the guests will take a hay ride through the farm in the hunt for the perfect tree for $159.95.

• Cornerstone Cabins and Lodge of Banner Elk will discount your rental by 15 percent during the Choose and Cut Season.

• Sugar Mountain Resort guests will receive a voucher for up to a seven-foot tree at Sugar Plum Tree Farms when you reserve a two-night stay at the advertised rate between Nov. 18 and Dec. 18. (Note: rooms are already discounted off regular price between Nov. 18 and Dec. 11 by as much as 20 percent.)

• Inn at Elk River is offering a one-night stay with breakfast for $175 and up to a seven-foot Christmas tree. Taller Christmas trees up to 12-plus feet are available at a slight upcharge. Let the tree farm cut it down while you enjoy free hot apple cider and sugar cookies.
 • Visit Vance Toe River Lodge’s website to see all of the packages they are offering.

• Hemlock Ridge Cabin Rental will offer a 10-percent discount on a two-night stay in December.

• Sugar Plum Tree Farms will offer half off in its Christmas Shop on Nov. 19 and 20.

• Parkview Lodge and Cabins is offering a package with Sugar Plum Tree Farms. Packages start at $119 for a two-person room and go up to $195 for a four-person cabin. The package includes a one-night stay, a coupon for a tree up to seven-feet in height and a home-cooked breakfast.
• Grandfather Mountain is offering $2 off each adult ticket (regular: $15) and $1 off each child’s ticket (regular: $7) with a Christmas tree receipt. Limit six people in one vehicle.

• Snowy Mountain Christmas Shop will give a 10-percent discount just for mentioning the Avery County Chamber.

• Evergreen Ridge Choose and Cut Tree Farm is offering a 25-percent off coupon on your entire purchase of trees. 

Courtesy Avery County Chamber of Commerce