It really begins to feel like Christmas when the trees arrive. Rob Zieber, manager of Gardenworks in North Vancouver, says orders were already being taken in the middle of November, but most of them were for businesses wanting trees for their lobbies or office parties. The first real rush from families will come this weekend.
Last week, the store already had its "Charlie Brown" trees (the small, sparse ones).
"They certainly have their market but they're the least popular of all the trees that we carry," says Zieber. "The appeal of those is that they are very inexpensive."
He notes that some older European customers like the little Charlie Brown trees because real candles were traditionally used in Europe, so the trees had to have more gaps and layering.
This week the store gets its big trees: the nobles, frasers, grand firs and more.
"Hands down the most popular tree that we carry is one called noble fir. And that's kind of like the Rolls Royce of the Christmas tree. It's got really nice, strong branching on it (and) very, very good needle retention. It's got an average fragrance but the selling feature is that it has very strong branches and it also has very good needle retention," says Zieber. The nobles can easily last for a month to six weeks without having a needle drop, he adds.
The fraser firs also have good needle retention, and they have a bit more layering, more gaps between the branches so the ornaments tend to hang a little better. They also have a pretty good fragrance. The branches on the fraser fir reach out in more of an upsweep than the nobles.
Douglas firs typically lose needles three weeks or so after they are brought inside the house. They don't have the best needle retention so are cheaper, says Zieber.
The store sells nobles, frasers and grands early in the season, but the Douglas firs aren't sold until around Dec. 10 because they don't last as long.
"They are a very traditional tree," says Zieber of the Douglas firs. They were very popular about a decade ago. "About 10 years ago we would sell about two to one Douglas firs to nobles," he adds, noting they were relatively inexpensive and there was a good local selection.
The price of the nobles has gone down over the years, Zieber explains, and the nobles will last longer than three weeks. You can put up a noble in the last week of November and it will still have needle retention going into January, he says. The Douglas firs have about two-and-a-half to three weeks before they start to show significant needle drop.
When it comes to buying a Christmas tree, the first thing customers ask about is height then they
ask about varieties, says Zieber. "People often overestimate the height of their ceiling. They want a nine-foot tree but have a standard 8½ -foot ceiling," he notes. Looking at a tree in the store can be deceiving since the store has 25-foot ceilings. Zieber recommends measuring your space before you buy a tree.
One thing to note is that the height of a tree is often measured from the bottom to where the top branch (the one where you put your angel or star) begins. It doesn't include the full length of that top branch. "So you can say you want an eight-foot tree but if you go from the very bottom to the top of the tree it's more like 8½ to nine feet," explains Zieber.
Care of the tree is important once you get it home, and Zieber recommends using an additive (sold in stores) to add to the water to help with needle retention.
He also recommends cutting at least an inch off the bottom of the tree (which can be done in the store). This is because as soon as the tree is cut in the field it starts to seal. If you don't make a fresh cut, the tree won't suck up moisture. Once the fresh cut is made, the tree should be put in water within three to four hours.
There are also wreaths, garlands and other fresh greens to consider this holiday season.
Zieber says fresh wreaths and garlands can easily last until January if the weather is cool, overcast and a bit humid. Once you take the greens inside the house, wreaths tend to start getting crusty by about 10 days, and garlands after only about a week.