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Christmas tree sellers cite various views on selections

For some, it is a ritual. For some, it is a last-minute affair.But it’s something very few people miss out on at this time ofyear, no matter how they carry on the tradition.

The Christmas tree selection process is as individual as thetrees and shoppers themselves.

Christmas tree connoisseurs say each person has their own listof qualifications for what they want to be the centerpiece ofholiday cheer.

“Some people are looking for a certain fullness, because theywant it to be a nice shape,” said Tommy Singleton, who mans thegarden center at Home Depot in Brookhaven. “Of course you don’twant shadows or holes or open spots, and you need something withsturdy limbs.”

Joan Hartzog, of Lawrence County, said she and her husband Petehave been in the Christmas tree business for 16 years, and haveseen all sorts of people on their lot.

Christmas tree shoppers are just like any others, she said. Someare “just browsing.”

“They occasionally ask for a particular size and we direct themto the areas of the field that would have trees they’re interestedin,” she said. “But some just wander from field to field and lookat every tree on the place before they pick what they want.”

And for some, the process is not so much about what will be theend result, but who is in on the selection.

“I have some of the same people that come back year after yearand it doesn’t matter what the weather’s like,” said Gary Keller,of Copiah Evergreens in Wesson. “There are some with a tradition,and five cars will pull up and it’s the whole family, coming to getthe tree. Then when they leave here, they have a party and godecorate.”

Hartzog said she and her husband find that Thanksgiving day canbe a big sale day.

“One thing that we noticed is that we have more trees purchasedwhen we open on Thanksgiving Day and that weekend,” he said. “Somepeople have their family get together then instead of Christmas,because when the family is far away, they may not come forChristmas Day. That and the day of the Lawrence County ChristmasParade are our two heaviest days.”

Some of the trees are small, and some are anything but that.Wayne Wallace of the Brookway Market Basket said he has beenselling Frazier firs, imported from North Carolina, since 1984. Hesaid they come in anything from a 3-foot tabletop tree to a 14-foottree.

“People with the bigger antebellum homes with the cathedralceilings are the ones who tend to come get the big ones,” he said.”We actually had an order for an 18-foot tree this year, but weweren’t able to find one.”

Keller said he moves a few of the bigger trees each year,too.

“I put a big tree downtown in Wesson last year. They usually putup a big tree a few weeks before Christmas,” he said.

Singleton said the different kinds of trees offer differentperks, and that tree hunters are best served to know ahead of timewhat kind of ornaments and other decorations they’re planning onusing.

“The Douglas firs are soft and lightweight, and are good forlighter ornaments,” he said. “The Fraser firs have a broader,heavier limb.”

The homegrown, southern trees also have differences, Hartzogsaid.

“The Leyland cypress grows thick branches and it has a niceshape to it almost naturally, and the Deodar cedar has more open,sturdier branches,” she said.

Keller explained that the Frasers will always be imported trees,because they won’t grow in Mississippi’s climate.

“I’ve tried to grow them here, but Fraser firs won’t grow here,because it gets too hot,” he said. “But the eastern red cedars arenative to Mississippi, as are the Leyland Cypress. The CarolinaBlues really are pretty, too.”

Wallace said in his opinion the imported Fraser firs are a goodway to go at Christmas time.

“They’re a little more expensive than the other southernvarieties, but they’re more durable,” he said. “They’re still greenin March or April, that’s how durable they are.”

Singleton and Wallace both said trimming the bottom of the treeis imperative to keeping it fresh and green through the Christmasseason.

“The sap will close off the pores on the end of the trunk and itwon’t absorb water,” Singleton said. “We usually recommend trimmingan inch off the bottom of the tree.”

Many places will trim the tree for you, like Home Depot and theBrookway Market Basket do.

But this year’s warm weather, with temperatures in the 80srecently, has had an effect on the business, Keller said.

“If it was about 20 or 30 degrees cooler we would sell moretrees,” he said. “It’s hard to sell Christmas trees when nobody’sthinking about Christmas.”

Singleton agreed.

“The cooler weather gets them in the shopping and Christmasspirit,” he said. “Cool weather makes for a good Christmas.”

Wallace said the cold weather sales are usually “fantastic,” andon a cooler year he might be sold out of trees by Dec. 10.

“Are you in the Christmas mood?” he asked. “If it was drizzlingand cold, and people were having to wear warm coats, we’d beselling a lot more trees. But I’m burning up out here.”