Christmas tree season is here again

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Tue., Dec. 3, 2013
Torrington resident Walter Fisher chooses a tree with his son, Cameron, at the Heatherly Tree Farm on Dec. 1. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Torrington resident Walter Fisher chooses a tree with his son, Cameron, at the Heatherly Tree Farm on Dec. 1. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Despite early-morning icy roads and gray, drizzly weather, there was a steady flow of customers at Heatherly’s Christmas Tree Farm the afternoon of Dec. 1. Heatherly’s has been in business in Lebanon for 25 years, and carries 10 different varieties of tree. Owner Peter Heatherly got started in the tree business when he was still a teacher at RHAM High School.

“I always enjoyed going to a tree farm when I was a kid, and I love evergreens,” he said. But tree cultivation requires a lot of work. Heatherly said that he hand-plants seedlings, transplants them when they’re bigger, and hand-trims each tree with a knife. “I was working 80-hour weeks when I was still a teacher,” he said. After retirement, Heatherly expanded his lot by 2.5 acres, and now cultivates approximate 6,500 trees on his 5.5-acre farm.

His number-one assistant for the past few years has been Kwadwo, now 14 years old, who lives nearby. Kwadwo is a smart kid with boundless energy and an interest in landscape architecture. He said that the tree work is the perfect outlet for him because it gives him something to do and helps prepare him for his future career. One of his tasks is mowing the grass that surrounds the trees.

“It takes six or seven hours,” said Kwadwo. The grass is important, said the men, because it helps to prevent erosion. It also makes for a more pleasant experience for customers, who don’t have to slog through a muddy landscape. But it’s important to keep the grass trimmed, said Heatherly, “because it keeps the diseases from hopping up onto the trees.”

Heatherly’s Tree Farm, located at 197 York Road in Lebanon, is open Monday through Friday from 2 to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saws and twine are provided.

A short distance away, at Lebanon Christmas Tree Farm, business was also brisk on Dec. 1. Owners Sue and Mike Baldi have been in business since 2007. This year, they’ve added several new features to a line-up of photo opportunities that include a huge Christmas wreath, a vintage, red pickup truck and several festive gingerbread men. Christmas music adds to the ambience. There is also free popcorn and hot chocolate, and frequent visits from Santa Claus.“We try to make this a family experience,” said Sue. “We try to give people a bang for their buck.”

Lebanon Christmas Tree Farm is located at 160 Lebanon Ave. (Route 16). Saws and twine are provided, and trees can be netted. Hours are Friday from noon to dark, and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to dark. Check out the farm’s Facebook page to find out when Santa will be paying a visit.

There are several websites that provide locations of other Christmas tree farms in the local area. The Connecticut Dept. of Agriculture website, under “Where to find CT grown products,” provides a link to the 2013 Connecticut Christmas Tree Growers brochure. Or check the CCTGA website at www.ctchristmastree.org/. Some counties are also covered at www.pickyourownchristmastree.org.


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