My friend, Rick, owns a Christmas tree farm in Ashtabula (for those of you not from Cleveland, that is a county or two over from where I live).
Rick’s farm is named Bender Tree Farm and we get our Christmas trees from there. Yes, it is a bit of a drive but I like to support (somewhat) local businesses and farms and plus I know that Rick takes good care of his trees. He trims them up nice and gives them alot of TLC. To tell the truth, I think Rick’s tree farm is really his personal gardening addiction. So, like any good gardener, I am more than happy to support a fellow gardener’s plant addiction.
Christmas trees can be a touchy subject in the enviromental/gardening community. On one hand, you are killing a tree and that can’t be a good thing… unless it is for making seed and plant catalogs, arbors, raised beds, seed packets, gardening books… Hmm… perhaps the thinking here is a bit flawed.
On the other hand, Christmas trees are no longer harvested wholesale from the natural landscape. These days, Christmas tree are grown on tree farms. The ones that are harvested are replaced and the cycle continues.
Beyond that, I have never heard anyone bitch about other plants that get wasted in the name of a holiday. When was the last time time you heard an enviromentalist go off on a rant about the disgraceful waste of pumpkins at Halloween or the deplorable use of Easter lilies?
I also have to wonder if these people have ever considered the fact that real trees can be mulched or at the very least will eventually break down in a landfill. Artificial trees… well, you are going to throw them out sometime. Last time I checked, they make really crappy mulch and they take an eternity to become compost.
I am of the belief that if you buy local and recycle your tree (many towns have a tree recycleing program), than you are not being any more damaging than if you buy annuals every year.
But not everybody buys local. As a matter of fact, nearly 33 million Christmas trees are sold annually and 60% of those are grown in either North Carolina or the Pacific Northwest. That is a whole lot of trees being shipped all over the US. I would hazard a guess that a large portion of those trees are sold from big box stores.
While these big box trees may be cheaper, you have to consider what exactly you would be getting.
At their very essence, Chrismas trees are really just giant cut flowers (er, plants). Would you buy a dozen roses that had been left on the counter without water for a day or two? Of course not! So why waste your money on a Christmas tree that has been sitting in a lot for days, maybe even weeks?
On top of this, anyone who has bought plants at a big box store knows how well they care for the plants there (and I use the word “care” loosly). Do you think they care for the trees any better?
At your local tree farm, you can cut your own fresh that day and some will even dig them up for you so you can bring it home live. Whether it lives until Spring when you can plant it is a whole other matter, but at least it would be alive when you brought it home.
In the end, the real question in the live vs. artificial comes down to “could you really convince yourself that the smell of dusty plastic is essential to Christmas?”