Maryland Christmas trees on the move

November 24, 1990|By Sujata Banerjee | Sujata Banerjee,Evening Sun Staff

A freshly cut tree can carry the scent of Christmas for many miles. Though most often spotted tied precariously to cars on the Beltway, some Maryland trees this year are traveling by freighter to the sunny isles of Puerto Rico, Aruba and Curacao. A piney whiff of Maryland air will blow across the Caribbean, proving a traditional Christmas can be had wherever you are.

Bonnie Nicholson, who owns Nicholson Tree Farm along with her husband, Oscar T. Nicholson Jr., says approximately 2,000 trees from their farm in Anne Arundel County will be sent to the #F Caribbean -- the first sent to that area from Maryland under an new international trade initiative begun by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Nicholson's trees will be cut just two days before shipping, and stored in buckets with wet sand to preserve freshness for the three-day trip to Puerto Rico and the seven-day voyage to Aruba and Curacao. Nicholson expects them to sell for between $65 and $100 each.

"We are thoroughly taken with this because it's all new anexciting," says Nicholson, who enjoyed traveling with two of her trees to Aruba in August, where they were decorated at an exhibit to entice holiday buyers. Christmas is celebrated throughout the Caribbean, but authentic fir trees are few and far between, mostly shipped in from the United States and Canada in an often-dried out condition. In Puerto Rico, the holiday season runs through Jan. 15, so Nicholson expects her trees to be focal points for lavish celebrations. She is curious to see pictures of how the Caribbean buyers will decorate their Maryland trees.

What kind of trees could make the trip through varying climates without losing needles? Nicholson says the Scotch Pine, White Pine, and Douglas Fir trees she is sending abroad have sturdy needles that can endure extreme variations in heat. For the same reason, such tree varieties travel well from Maryland forests into local homes heated warmly for winter.

"We strongly discourage spruce trees because they loose needles so fast," says Nicholson. "Scotch pine is what we consider the best." In Maryland, Scotch and White Pine and Blue Spruce are the "bargain" trees of the forest. A choose-and-cut six-foot Scotch or White Pine tree could cost between $24 and $33 this year, with most prices under $30. Most farmers have kept last year's prices or raised the cost per tree by only a few dollars. Six-foot Douglas Firs sell anywhere from $30 to $45. Perhaps the trendiest trees around are Fraser Firs, which have graced recent White House Christmas celebrations. Fraser Firs are available at some Maryland farms but are mostly grown in TTC North Carolina, where they take up to 20 years to reach six feet. Frostee Tree Farm in Baltimore County will sell Fraser Firs for $45 to $50 apiece. At Timber Hill Farm in Carroll County, Fraser Firs will sell for $31.

It's a good idea to protect a Christmas tree by displaying it in a moderately heated to cool room away from radiators. The best way to ensure you have a fresh tree that will last is to cut it down yourself at one of the many choose-and-cut farms throughout Maryland. When you get home with your tree, examine the base to see if sap has resealed the bottom of the trunk. If so, cut off an inch from the base to open the tree to drink in as much water as it needs. Store a tree outside in a bucket of water and sand until you are ready to decorate it inside. A tree stand should be watered daily; Nicholson says there are home recipes for additives to the tree stand such as sugar and Karo syrup, but she has found plain water works perfectly well.

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