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The Art and Science of Christmas Trees

There’s an art to picking the perfect Christmas tree, and a science to growing it. Traveling from rural Pennsylvania to the sidewalks of New York, these holiday conifers wind up in living rooms across the city. Miriam Sitz reports.


These days, you can’t walk more than a few blocks in Manhattan without running into a Christmas tree stand. There’s actually a city law dating back to the 1930s that allows for the sale of Christmas trees only during the month of December. But in practice, that start date proves a little bit flexible.

AMBI: Sound of bells, tree saws, shoppers chatting, music playing “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Every year, Advent Lutheran Church at 93rd Street and Broadway holds a Christmas tree sale — it’s a fundraiser for the congregation’s food pantry. Carly and Philip Strom coordinated the event this year.

CARLY STROM: It seems like everyone in the area round here plans on buying their trees from us, so they come ready.

PHILIP STROM: They sell out every year.

John Larsen picks out a Fraser fir, about five and a half feet tall.

JOHN LARSEN: It’s a little smaller than trees I’ve gotten in previous years. I like to see a nice symmetrical shape.

An eight and a half footer towers over Denise Derosa-Farag.

DENISE DEROSA-FARAG: I like to have a nice tree that fits in my room, that takes over my room actually.

The tree is still bundled up with string.

DENISE DEROSA-FARAG: I think it will be quite plump.

All the trees at Advent came from John Jurgill’s 20-acre farm in Catawissa, Pennsylvania. That’s on the smaller side for a Christmas tree farm. He grows 20 thousand Fraser firs, which have strong compact branches that turn slightly upward.

JOHN JURGILL: Some Christmas trees are so full that you have to lay an ornament on it. I believe in hanging ornaments, that’s what they’re for.

He lets little branches on the tree grow larger before he prunes. That makes for even stronger, more ornament-friendly branches.

He sells his trees wholesale to retailers across the eastern seaboard, for between 18 and 24 dollars a tree. That’s pennies compared to prices in the city.

AMBI: Shoppers chatting and haggling over prices, music playing “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Back at Advent, prices range from $50 to $100 — pretty standard in this part of town. Denise Derosa-Fara’s tree came with a $95 price tag.

DENISE DEROSA-FARAG: It’s for a good cause, so yeah, it’s ok.

After Christmas, the department of sanitation will collect clean trees between January 5th and 16th. The holiday conifers will be recycled into compost for parks and community gardens across the city — a gift that keeps on giving.

Miriam Sitz, Columbia Radio News.

Advent Lutheran Christmas Tree Sale — Miriam Sitz


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