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CHRISTMAS TREES

At The Tree Farm in 2012

Our best selection of trees this year are spruce, balsam and fraser firs or white pine. Many of the trees are fairly open; some are rather wild looking.

Spruce
We have many nice spruce trees up to about 12' tall. Our spruce trees are a mixture of white spruce and blue spruce. Spruce have short, sharp needles.

Balsam fir and Fraser fir
We have a good supply of balsam and fraser fir up to about 14' tall. Many of these trees, particularly the Frazer firs, are quite slender and appear small for that reason. Balsam and Frazer fir have short, soft needles and a pleasant aroma.

White pines
We have white pines up to 18 feet tall. Many are quite open in appearance. White pines have very soft medium-length needles.

There are also a few Norway or red pine trees and douglas fir trees.

Scotch pines
We have very few Scotch pines this year. Many are on the wild side, Sizes may range up to 15' tall.. Wild Scotch pines can get pretty wild! Scotch pines have medium-length needles that are stiff and sharp.

Norway pines (red pines)
We have a few rather open looking Norway pines up to about 15' tall. Norway pines have long needles.

Douglas fir
And we have very few douglas fir up to about 12' tall. Douglas fir trees have short, soft needles and a pleasant aroma.

Take a walk on the wild side

We sell Christmas trees on the farm where they grow. The music here is made by the wind in the trees and the hawks or geese overhead. "Things to see" include the hills, woods, tree fields, and farm fields of scenic northwestern Dane County, Wisconsin. The long views from the top of our hill overlooking Indian Lake Park are magnificent.

The ambience includes whatever weather we have the day you come. If it's cold, dress for the cold. If it's windy, be prepared for the wind. Enjoy cutting your own tree outdoors, out on the farm.

Some of our tree fields are on lower ground where they are sheltered from the wind. Some are on the top of an exposed ridge where the view can be breathtaking and the winter wind can take one's breath away. Some are very near parking, others require a walk of up to 600 feet. If you want a longer walk, park in the valley and take one of the trails to the top of the hill to get your tree.

We provide free boughs with purchase of a tree.

Species

Christmas trees that are frequently grown in Southern Wisconsin include spruce, true fir (balsam, frazer), and sometimes douglas fir and pines,.

Spruce. It takes longer to produce spruce than pine Christmas trees. It may take only 6 to 8 years from transplanting to grow a six foot pine Christmas tree. A six foot spruce is likely to take 8 to 11 years. True firs sometimes take even longer. A six foot balsam may take 12 years or more after transplanting.

White spruce is the native Wisconsin spruce frequently used as a Christmas tree. White spruce trees have short, sharp needles and an attractive growth habit that requires less shearing than pines. White spruce are usually very dark green in color and are often loaded with cones by the time they are large enough to cut for a Christmas tree. Spruce have a characteristic aroma that many people associate with Christmas.

Colorado blue spruce and Black Hills spruce can make very nice Christmas trees. Both have needles that are somewhat longer than white spruce and very sharp. Some people like them, not only for their showy color, but because their sharp needles are unfriendly to cats. Some people avoid them because their sharp needles are unfriendly to children.

Cones in a blue spruce Christmas treeThe property of early sexual maturity, that is bearing cones at an early age, is appreciated by some people, who regard such trees as pre-decorated. Others find the abundant cones aesthetically detrimental. I watched one customer carefully remove almost 100 cones from a spruce tree before putting it in the car while another customer nearby was clearly admiring a heavily pre-decorated tree. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Evary tree is different. That is part of what makes them fun.

Spruce trees have a reputation for dropping their needles too soon after they are taken into the house. We are unaware of anyone who has encountered this difficulty with a freshly cut spruce tree that is kept in water in a room that is maintained at or below 70 F.

Picture of Frazer fir twigs and needlesFir. Many regard either a balsam or fraser fir as the only kind of Christmas tree. Other trees won't do. These trees have just the right fragrance. Their short, soft needles have white stripes along the under side that give the dark green trees a lighter undertone. Firs grow slowly, and have a pleasant, if open appearance if left unsheared. They respond favorably to shearing, and can produce wonderful Christmas trees.

Douglas fir is a native of western North America. Some selections are winter hardy here, and will produce beautiful Christmas trees. Douglas fir grows a little faster than do the true firs, and sometimes tend to be a little wilder if not adequately sheared. They do respond favorably to shearing, however, and can make Christmas trees comparable in quality to the true firs. They have the soft, short needles and fragrant aroma that make the true firs so popular. Healthy Douglas firs hold their needles very well as Christmas trees. However, a disease of Douglas fir needles can cause them to drop their needles prematurely. Douglas fir trees that have a lot of yellow needles should be avoided.

Pines grow relatively fast (for trees) and respond well to shearing. Pines characteristically have medium to long needles. As the plantation-grown Christmas tree business expanded in the upper Midwest a few decades ago, pines, particularly Scotch pines, were the tree of choice for many growers. Many of today's Midwesterners grew up with the tradition of a Scotch pine for their family Christmas tree.

A 7 foot Scotch pine Christmas tree at The Tree FarmScotch pines are of European origin. They are highly variable in appearance and growth habit. Some have needles that are only a little longer than those of a blue spruce, others have needles that are nearly as long as those of a Norway pine. Scotch pine needles are sharp and stiff, and range in color from dark green to blue green to light green. As winter approaches, some Scotch pines change color to an unattractive yellow green. Just in time for Christmas! Some growers dye Scotch pine trees before they are cut to provide a uniform dark green tree for the market. At The Tree Farm, we plant selections of trees that tend to remain greener during the winter. Scotch pines respond to shearing by growing many branches. This is why sheared Scotch pines often appear to be very dense; almost impenetrable. They have relatively stiff branches that support ornaments well.

Medium-length, soft White pine needlesWhite pines are much softer trees than are Scotch pines. They have medium length, soft needles. As Wisconsin natives, the trees that are grown here are much less variable than are Scotch pines. They retain color uniformly in the winter. They respond well to shearing, and can become just as dense as Scotch pines. Their branches are very flexible, and may bend or droop under the weight of heavy ornaments.

Norway pines have long, flexible needles. They usually grow fewer branches in response to shearing, so often appear to have a more open canopy than do Scotch pines. The trees grown here are Wisconsin natives, and are quite uniform in growth habit and color. Their attractive dark green summer color tends to change to a yellow-green winter color.

Pine trees, however, don't have the aroma that many people cherish in a Christmas tree. Some find that their somewhat coarse branching system and long needles make them more difficult to decorate. Others just prefer the finer texture and "feel" of a short-needled tree. So, in recent years, the trend (some would call it fad) has shifted to short needled trees, first spruce and more recently fir, particularly frazer fir.



The Tree Farm
The Pick Your Own Vegetables Place
Cut your own Christmas Trees on December Weekends
In Northwestern Dane County, Wisconsin
8454 Highway 19
Cross Plains, WI 53528
608.798.2286

Updated November 20, 2012

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