Loyd Star nursery creates a winter wonderland

Published 10:03 pm Thursday, November 23, 2017

Donna Case is lettin’ it snow.

Her granddaughter, 6-year-old Bently, was dressed for a Mississippi fall — sandals and a hoodie — as the owner of Buds & Blooms practiced flocking Christmas trees this week. Case got her Snowforce 110 Tuesday and already several trees, a table, the ground and a few employees have been shot with a mixture of adhesive and cellulose fibers that resembles the wintery white substance that doesn’t fall in abundance in the South.

She’s learning how to flock to meet the demand of customers dreaming of a white Christmas.

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Case received so many calls last year that she and her husband decided to invest in the equipment and offer the service at the nursery.

“I didn’t even know what flocking was,” she said.

They picked the brain of a man in Slidell who has been flocking trees for three decades.

“This year we jumped in, pretty much whole hog,” she said.

Case’s husband built a special booth for the trees to be flocked in. It’s covered on three sides with plastic sheeting and gets lots of natural sunlight in the daytime. That comes in handy since it takes at least four hours for a tree to dry enough to be bagged and picked up by the customer.

To get that snowy effect, Case or one of her workers fires up the blower, which pumps the powder through a hose from a 25-gallon tank. A gun at the end mixes it with a mist of water. She blasts the tree with a cloud of white as it revolves on a wooden turntable. She wears a mask to keep from inhaling fake snow.

“This stuff is so slick. It’s unreal how slick it is and sticky,” she said.

It’s hard to judge the coverage until it dries. When she blows it onto the greenery it looks cold and wet like paste. As it dries it gets puffy, like fresh fallen snow nestling on needles.

Once it’s flocked, it can’t get wet again. That just causes a big mess, she said.

Case has been practicing her technique and the force of her spray on a purchased tree. There’s a fine line and a firm grip between a light snowfall effect and a blizzard.

“The lady wanted to see a little bit of green. I just hope it’s not too flocky,” she said.

Right now her flock is white, but she’s ordered pastel pink and blue. For the colored flock, she bought a mini snow blower, which looks like a four-gallon bucket with vacuum cleaner tubes connected to it. The contraption hangs from the flocker’s neck. The flocking business is not for the fashion conscious.

Case plans to flock trees, wreaths and garlands to start.

“The sky’s really the limit when we start figuring this stuff out,” she said.

Customers can pick out Fraser firs from 6-foot to 10-foot from their inventory or bring their own real or artificial tree to be flocked. Price ranges from $5 to $10 a foot. She hasn’t decided on a price for flocking on wreaths and garland. Trees brought in must be on stands already, and artificial trees can’t be pre-lit.

Case can add iridescent flakes to the trees after the flocking for a pearlescent sparkle effect.

“You just pitch it up and let it go,” she said.

She also offers silver and gold glitter that can be added before the trees dry.

As far as Case knows, she’s the only nursery in Lincoln County flocking trees. She knows of some in Jackson and Hattiesburg, and pretty much every corner in Louisiana, she said.

After seeing the flocked firs ready to be picked up, she’s sold on the look for Christmas trees.

“It’s going to make it beautiful,” she said.

This is the second year for Buds & Blooms to sell Christmas trees. They hope to have their own to sell in another two years. They planted about a half acre of Leland cypress trees two years ago because firs won’t grow where snow rarely falls. It’s too warm.

“You have to do something southern,” Case said. “The Leland has been the crown and glory of the South.”