Pictured: Big Wave Dave’s Christmas Trees in Ventura, Camarillo and Moorpark.
The supply chain disruptions, trucking cost, drought and fire in the Pacific Northwest all have an impact on the prices and availability of cut trees and artificial tree supplies. The American Christmas Tree Association warns that these challenges will result in fewer artificial and live Christmas trees this year and that prices will rise for those that are still available.
Dave Lindren, owner and operator of Big Wave Daves Christmas tree lot in Ventura, Camarillo, and Moorpark said, Days of 115-degree heat on our tree farm in Oregon burnt new buds. The lack of freezing weather caused trees to skip dormancy. This is why we have fewer trees of the highest quality this year.
Local cut your tree farms are an alternative to purchasing a cut tree from China or a tree trucked from the Pacific Northwest. Drought can also affect local tree farms.
Keely Hagle of Hagle Christmas Tree Farm in Somis reported that our eight-foot trees were already gone, three days after Black Friday’s retail opening. We had far fewer large ones this year due to the fact that we had to reduce watering to comply with pumping restrictions and the rain didn’t come to make up the difference.
Small trees will be revived and good harvests will be possible next year with efficiency improvements to irrigation systems. However, for now Hagle Farm is supplementing their choose-and cut inventory with cut trees from Oregon or Washington.
Hagle stated that the Noble Fir is a popular choice year after year. However, it is worth considering Nordmann fir or Douglas fir for this year’s selection.
Another option is the local fir trade. Richard Flowers, a Ventura Certified Nursery Professional with Green Thuumb Nursery, said that rather than buying trees from distant sources every year, some people buy live trees and keep them for a few decades before either recycling or planting them.
Green Thumb charges $230 for a Nordmann Fir that is four feet tall in a 16 gallons-sized pot. Flowers says that this fir tree is the most adaptable to growing inside a pot in our climate. It can last up to eight years before becoming root bound. Similar options are Aleppo and Italian Stone pines. Flowers warns customers who are thinking of planting Christmas trees that they should consider the growth patterns before they do so. Nordmann firs can reach 60 feet in height.
Instead, shoppers might consider a dwarf Alberta pine. Its tight branch structure makes it attractive as a Christmas tree. According to Flowers, the dwarf variety can live up to eighteen years in a container and only grows to approximately 11 feet tall when planted. This variety is very sensitive to heat and is unlikely to thrive in the local environment.
According to the American Christmas Tree Association website last year, 94 Million households in the United States had a Christmas tree installed in their homes. 85% of those trees were artificial.
While artificial trees are attractive to consumers, is this best for the environment or just the convenience? Artificial trees can be reused year after year but they don’t save trees from being removed from a natural forest. According to the National Christmas Tree Association almost all Christmas trees are grown on tree farms. This is often on soil that is not suitable for other types of trees. These trees were planted because of market demand. Tree farmers are eager to make a profit and plant new trees when they harvest trees for use.
Some trees are also grown in an eco-sustainable manner. Karen and Michael Karayan, who started the Mupu Tree Farm retail location on Ojai Road near Santa Paula in 1996, display a certification that their trees are from an Oregon Socially and Environmentally Responsible Farm (SERF).
Tree farms must develop a sustainability plan to obtain SERF certification. This plan should include achievements in five areas: biodiversity, soil and water resources, integrated pest management, health and safety, community and consumer relations, and health and safety. The Oregon Agricultural Department inspects plan compliance and requests updates.
There is another local option for consumers who care about environmental sustainability. Craigslist Ventura County currently lists over 40 used artificial tree listings, and one Camarillo listing that sells a live tree inside a pot.
Ventura County Public Works Environmental Analyst David Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-658-4312.