Christmas memories grow at region's tree farms
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Region - posted Mon., Nov. 19, 2012
For many families, trooping through the snow to seek out the perfect Christmas tree is an irreplaceable holiday tradition. The brisk December air, the scent of pine, the crunch of sparkling snow underfoot and the contrast of deep evergreen needles against the gray winter sky create an unforgettable memory.
Eastern Connecticut is blessed with an abundance of Christmas tree farms where that experience is offered to families every year. Starting right after Thanksgiving, these farms allow customers to choose and cut their own evergreen and bring a little of the Connecticut countryside indoors for the holidays.
Friday, Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, is the universal opening day for these businesses, and most will remain open right up through the weekend before Christmas. While some farms feature a lot filled with pre-cut trees for the busy customer, “the freshest tree is the one [customers] cut themselves,” said Bob Russell of Scott’s Tree Farm on Bunker Hill Road in Andover. His farm offers both pre-cut and cut-your-own options.
Just what constitutes the “perfect” Christmas tree? “It’s hard to choose for somebody. Everybody’s different,” said Duane Bradway of Union. Some folks prefer a tree that’s dense and full, while others like one with branches “spaced out to put the decorations on it. Sometimes it takes two or three hours to pick out a tree,” he said.
Different tree varieties offer different advantages. “The most popular tree we sell is the Fraser fir,” said Bowman Geer of Geer’s Tree Farm on Voluntown Road in Griswold. “It has a nice color and lasts the longest; it probably has the best needle retention.”
While spruces tend to get short shrift because of their sharp needles, Paul Cavanna of Cavanna’s in South Glastonbury notes that this is an advantage for some customers. “For people who have cats, a cat will touch a blue spruce once and then leave it alone,” he said.
Tracy Pell, a fourth-generation grower from Pell Farm in South Windsor, prefers the firs herself. “They have softer needles, and in my opinion, they’re a more vibrant green color,” she said. “I think they’re easier to decorate, too.”
For those who can’t get enough of the pine aroma, Dorothy Markowski of Markowski Farms in West Suffield recommends the balsams for their fragrance. She said that sometimes customers choose a tree that might overpower the room when it gets home. “Some of the trees that leave here, I wonder how big the house is,” she said. “When they’re out [in the field] they all look small.” Families might consider taking measurements of the tree’s eventual spot and bringing a tape measure along to the farm.
As for longevity, Joe Dzen - of Dzen’s Christmas Trees on Barber Hill Road in South Windsor and Dzen’s Sadds Mill Tree Farm on Sadds Mill Road in Ellington - said that as long as you get your tree cut fresh and put it right into water when you get home, the tree should easily last through the season. “We try to promote buying locally,” he said. “The first weekend in December is probably the busiest one. People looking for larger trees come out to the farm earlier. They know the selection is the best and the biggest ones go quickly.”
For some, a live tree with a burlap-bagged root ball is the “green” choice, allowing the tree to continue to grow and prosper in the homeowner’s yard. Pell, whose farm sells live trees, directs customers to acclimate the tree to indoor conditions by keeping it in a garage or other protected area for three days before and three days after its Christmas stint. It should actually be indoors no longer than 10 days, and should receive plenty of water and air, she said. Prices for live trees are significantly higher than for cut trees, she said.
Mindy Cone of Cedar Ledge Tree Farm in Mansfield encourages customers to shake the tree vigorously before bringing it indoors to dislodge loose needles, leaves or other debris. “The most important thing is, when you get it home to put it in water right away,” she said. “You should put it in hot tap water, especially the first time, just like when you go to a florist.”
Joe Grimaldi of Grimaldi Tree Farm in West Willington also advises immediate watering when the tree gets home. If that’s not possible, he said, the customers should make a new cut across the bottom of the trunk, since sap will seal off the old wound and prevent water absorption. “Cut it no more than a half an inch,” he said, “and it will last all the way until January. The tree drinks every day, so every couple of days you’ve got to water it.”
While many tree farms offer packets of tree preservative additives, most growers agree that the key factor is keeping the tree consistently watered. “You should probably check the water every day,” said Pell. Geer adds that the tree should be placed away from heat sources, like heaters or radiators, to prevent premature dry-out.
Along with the tree-cutting, many of the farms offer other fun activities. Cedar Ridge offers tractor rides out to the tree fields; at Markowski Farms in West Suffield, a horse-drawn wagon offers rides to customers on the weekends, weather permitting. Kogut’s Hemlock Hills has a special “Charlie Brown Christmas tree lot,” filled with small $5 trees, where kids armed with toy chainsaws can “cut” their own pre-cut mini-tree. At Geer’s, free hot chocolate and cookies are augmented by Keifer’s Kettle Corn and Rolling Tomato brick-oven pizza, both available for purchase.
Dzen Tree Farm at 215 Barber Hill Road in South Windsor is hoping that Santa will bring them an early gift – a permit to keep live reindeer on their site again. Virginia Dzen said that the farm had live reindeer in years past but had to stop the practice when the state of Connecticut put an embargo on the animals because of disease issues. She said that a representative from the farm recently spoke to the state assembly about reversing the embargo, and if all goes well, the arctic creatures may greet visitors to the farm this season. Even if they don’t, visitors can enjoy the farm’s life-size nativity scene.
Christmas Tree Farms
Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree Farm, 167 Wopowog Road; 860-267-8880; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hazen Christmas Tree Farm, 166 Lake Drive; 860-267-4159
Lost Spring Farm, 26 Daly Road; 860-267-9644
Old Purple Farm, 31 South- Main Street; 860-267-8527; e-mail: email@example.com
Peaceful Hill Tree Farm, 118 Clark Hill Road; 860-267-4341; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
New London County
Evergreen Acres Tree farm and Nursery, 464 Windham Ave.; 860-537-2019
Reneson’s Christmas Tree Farm, 280 Bull Hill Road; 860-267-0448
Geer Tree Farm, 852 Voluntown Road; 860-376-5838; 7:30 a.m.-dusk daily
Pine Road Tree Farm, 58 Pine Road, Jewett City; 860-376-0273
Yurechko’s Tree Farm, 88 Bitgood Road; 860-376-3418
Heatherly Tree Farm, York Road; 860-642-4374
Maple Lane Farms, 57 Northwest Corner Rd.; 860-887-8855
Oakwood Farm, 127 Route 164 & 16, Pendleton Hill Road; 860-886-8241
Hartikka Tree Farms, Shetucket Rd.; 860-376-2351
Olsen’s Tree Farm, 319 Ekonk Hill Road (Route 49 North); 860-376-2370
Old Orchard Farm, 73 Barber Hill Road, Broad Brook, CT; 860-872-3687; e-mail: email@example.com
Red Hill Tree Farm, 37 South Main Street (Rt. 5); 860-627-9728
Rose’s Berry Farm, 295 Matson Hill Road; 860-633-7467
Cavanna’s Tree Farm, 80 Woodland Ave.; 860-659-1856; Mon.-Fri. 1-4., Sat.-Sun. 10-4.
Steele’s Tree Farm, 683 Vernon Street; 860-649-7842
Dzen Tree Farm, Inc., 215 Barber Hill Road; 860-648-2233; 9-4 daily
Dzen’s Christmas Trees, Barber Hill Road; 860-644-4575; Sat.-Sun. 9-4
Wagon Shed Nursery, 155 Griffin Road; 860-289-7356
Markowski Farms, 216 Babbs Road; 860-668-2881; Mon. Fri. noon-dusk, Sat.-Sun. 8-dusk.
Birchwood Farms, 3 Birchwood Road; 860-688-4528 Weekends only
Scott’s Christmas Tree Farm, 11 Bunker Hill Road; 860-742-9965; 9 a.m.-dark daily.
Hickory Ridge Tree Farm, 108 South River Road; 860-742-8354
Hunt’s Christmas Tree Farm, 80 Woodbridge Road; 860-742-6525
Dzen’s Sadds Mill Tree Farm, 20 Sadds Mill Road; 860-644-4575; Mon.-Thurs. 12-4, Fri.-Sun. 9-4
Cedar Ledge Tree Farm, 260 Coventry Road; 860-423-5690; Mon.-Fri. 3-8, Sat.-Sun. 9-5.
Kogut’s Hemolock Hill Tree Farm, 108 Billings Road; 203-630-6531; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 9-4 daily.
Pell Farm, 96 Kibbe Grove Road; 860-749-3582; 10-4 daily.
Duane Bradway, 441 Stickney Hill Road; 860-684-3017; Fri., Sat. and Sun. 9-4
Joseph Grimaldi, Lucian Road; 860-649-2184
Allen Hill Farm, 542 Allen Hill Road; 860-774-7064
Ingalls Tree Farm, 47 Brown Road; 860-774-2060
Alliod’s Christmas Tree Farm, 105 Water St.; 860-546-9162
Harmony Farm, 294 Bedlam Road (Follow signs from Bedlam Four Corners); 860-455-0200
Grayledge Tree Farm, 210 Lathrop Road; 860-564-8769 or 860-564-0649; e-mail: GrayledgeTFarm@aol.com