A Timeless, Piney Tradition

Nothing makes for a season’s greening like cutting down your own tree

scott Holstein / Rowland Publishing File Photo

I tuck wool socks into barely worn boots that will carry me swishing past blurs of emerald, forest and hunter greens. The cool air supplies a rosy blush to my too-young-to-wear-makeup cheeks. My sister runs beside me in a race past jagged stumps and thickets high enough to create a labyrinth. 

We pause to regain our breath and composure as Dad rounds the corner to inspect what we have found.

“Is this the one?” he asks.

Presently, a chain saw roars to life and sets to work spewing bits of pine until the tree falls to earth with a thud. A 20-foot emblem of joy and celebration lies before us. The Christmas season has been ushered in. 

There are few symbols more iconic, recognizable and cherished as the Christmas tree. Some will settle for a tree-in-a-box, assembled piece by piece. I’ve experimented with that approach but find it far less satisfying than a living, breathing, pungent tree.  

Not long after Thanksgiving, my family would pack into my father’s pickup truck and venture to Ergle Tree Farm in Dade City, Florida, to find the perfect tree. Many elements factored into the decision: height, span, hue, needle texture and scent. 

For the past two years, I went the artificial route but missed watering a tree daily and sweeping up needles. This year will be different. To my delight, but not surprise, several Christmas tree farms are to be found in and near the City of Trees.

scott Holstein / Rowland Publishing File Photo

Bill Maphis of Maphis Tree Farm ensures every tree is pristinely groomed.

Franco and Sigrid Camacho of the Bavarian Christmas Tree Farm in Tallahassee are South Florida transplants who love Christmas so dearly they found their calling growing trees. 

“We didn’t give up, ever,” explained Franco. “Even in the times that it didn’t rain. Now we have 10 acres and about 3,000 trees. We have families that have been coming here for years.” 

They illuminate their property beginning a day before Thanksgiving and sell their last tree on Christmas Eve. Come equipped with your own toolbox, or borrow tools from the Camachos. Their trees range in height from 4 to a stately 24 feet. Leave with not only a tree, but also an ornament from the gift shop or a family photo taken next to the nativity scene. 

“Lots of people make this a family affair and come every year,” said Sigrid. “We only see them once a year, but we look forward to their familiar faces.” 

“We love the joys of Christmas and being a part of making the holidays special,” said Franco while trimming a Carolina Sapphire Cypress tree. “We like Christmas, we like the people we meet and we make a little bit of money, not a lot, but that doesn’t matter.”

Guide to Christmas Trees

When perusing tree lots, these are the species most often encountered: 

Balsam fir dense, dark green with a wide base and slender, pointed top. 

Douglas fir  soft needles of a blue-green hue with a slightly sweet fragrance. 

Fraser fir  beautiful form, great needle retention and dark green color. 

White pine soft, flexible needles, bright green, not ideal for heavy ornaments.

Colorado Blue spruce  ideal symmetry, attractive blue-green foliage. 

Arizona cypress steeple-shaped tree with light green to pale grey coloring. 

Norway Pine thin, dark green needles, no distinctive smell, slim tree.

Area Tree Farms

Bavarian Christmas Tree Farm
4352 Safari Run Tallahassee

Havana Christmas Tree Farm
2867 FL-GA Parkway Havana

Maphis Tree Farm
814 Rattlebox Road Chipley

Springhill Christmas Tree Farm
795 Woodhull Road Bainbridge, Georgia

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