This year has been a hard one for family gatherings. For several months we’ve been limiting big get-togethers out of concern over the coronavirus pandemic. It’s likely that COVID-19 will be impacting your Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, too.
With lots of families foregoing travel and staying put for the holidays, it’s time to capture the spirit of the season in our homes by decking them out with as much holiday cheer as possible. The centerpiece of that décor, of course, is your tree.
In keeping with the family theme, I want to tell you about the two families working hard to make sure you have a beautiful tree each year.
The first one is the Warner family, of course. For the past 50 years, four generations of Warners have been working at our nursery during the holiday season, selling trees and other décor. The business was started back in 1970 by my grandmother, Dottie, who passed it on to her three sons and now I run it with my sister and husband and occasional help from my three sons when they’re not in school.
But where do our trees come from? That leads me to the second family involved in our Christmas Tree operations – the Stones of Salem, Oregon and their business, BTN of Oregon.
Most real Christmas trees aren’t cut down in the forest; they are crop grown specifically for the holidays. Mike Stone began what ultimately became a family business in 1958.
Mike was just 13 when he got started in the Christmas tree business. He purchased his first piece of property and paid for it by harvesting the trees on the land. His wife, Marea, also became part of the business. Ultimately, he passed the business to his three sons (hmmm, that sounds familiar). The company was renamed BTN of Oregon after the first names of those sons – Ben, Tyler and Nathan.
Now that you know who is behind your holiday trees, let me share how those trees are cultivated, benefitting the environment for about a decade before they come to Northern Arizona.
Seeds are collected from parent trees selected by the BTN crew for their superior Christmas tree characteristics. They spend their first three years in either a seed bed or a greenhouse, after which they are transplanted. Ben and Tyler are responsible for driving the planting tractor, ensuring the rows of trees are as straight as possible.
Around that time, the lower 6 inches of tree limbs are removed by hand in order to create a “handle” on every tree, essentially the part of the cut tree that you’ll put in a tree stand many years later. That summer, the shearing process starts. This involves swinging an 18-inch blade to create the perfect taper for every tree. Crews go into the fields with bamboo sticks and twist ties and stake any treetop that isn’t growing straight to make sure the trees have perfectly centered tops.
The trees then continue to grow for several more years. A couple of days before they are shipped, crews go into the fields to cut trees for upcoming orders. The trees are stacked on ropes, or “slings,” in bundles – and then, they fly. Literally.
BTN uses helicopters in the harvest process. It’s expensive, but the folks at BTN say it’s the cleanest, most efficient way to get trees from their growing fields to the staging areas where they are baled and loaded onto trucks. About 1,500 trees an hour can be moved using the helicopters.
Despite the many forest fires that have devastated the west coast, the trees at BTN have not been affected and we’ll be getting our shipment later this month.
One of the great joys of the season is picking out your tree with your family and finding the perfect one with the right height and shape that will make your home so much more special this holiday.
Warner’s will be offering both cut and live, potted trees this year. We have pre-ordering, delivery and disposal services available. We look forward to seeing you and helping you find that special tree.
Happy holidays – from the Stone and Warner families to yours.
Happy Gardening! FBN
By Misti Warner-Anderson
Misti Warner-Andersen is the manager of Warner’s Nursery & Landscape Co., located at 1101 E. Butler Ave. in Flagstaff. To contact Warner’s Nursery, call 928-774-1983.