by Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance
Eighteen years and 40,000 Christmas trees later, Wendy McGuire still looks forward to meeting old friends at her Churchland Christmas Tree Farm as November turns to December.
She’s been running the tree lot long enough that some of the children who helped their families pick out perfect Christmas trees season after season are now coming round with children of their own.
“One thing that really stands out in my mind is how the kids have grown,” McGuire said as she was preparing for this year’s opening on Saturday, Nov. 25.
“They were little when they started coming to the farm, and now we’ve got young ladies who are married with their children. It just blows me away. It’s so neat to see them grow up.”
Like many of the Christmas tree farms in the Langley area, McGuire’s at 4726 248th St. offers more than just trees. It’s the experience that brings many families back year after year.
Churchland is mostly about letting families loose among the trees, to find the one that is perfect for them: “We give the people the saws, and they go out and get their trees… tons of families… and we’ve got these things for the kids, blow-ups, and candy canes, and hot chocolate.”
The whole place will be decorated with wreaths and swags and garlands that people will want to buy to decorate their homes alongside their specially chosen tree.
For those in a hurry or just less adventurous, there are pre-cut trees that this year will come off Churchland’s own fields. “We’re going to just cut them as we need them, so they’re going to be fresh.”
Freshness is important, whether you seek out and cut your own tree, or you decide to pick an already cut tree from a stand. Not tended properly, a tree will dry out, and could become a fire hazard.
Any tree that hasn’t been placed in water within a couple of hours after being cut has to be re-cut, to reopen the bottom of the stem.
“They get a scab on them, just like we do, and they won’t suck up water through that,” explained McGuire. “That’s one thing people have to know.”
And wherever the tree ends up in the home, it should be as far from a heat source as possible, she cautioned, adding: “And you’ve got to keep them watered.”
The trees are “kind of dormant” at this time of year, she explained, and when they are warmed up and watered, they come back to life.
Grand or Douglas firs, two of the more popular varieties of Christmas trees, “are going to drink like a litre of water every single day until they fill up, and then they’ll slow down,” McGuire said.
“You never want your tree to dry out,” she said. “If you do, if you forget for one day, you’re going to get a crispy tree really fast.”
And a crispy tree doesn’t just drop its needles, it becomes dangerous.
Once they’re “crispy,” it’s too late for watering.
Noble and Fraser firs, she said, are more forgiving about getting water.
McGuire said she expects them to be the most popular varieties this year.
“People coming this weekend will be getting Nobles and Frasers for decorating, for sure, because they will last,” she said. “You want to get them for the beginning of December and water them good.”
“The Grand fir are good, too,” she said. “I used to bring the Grand fir in all the time because I like the smell of them. They’re the ones that smell really citrusy, really nice.”
Churchland brings Nordmann firs in from Chilliwack. They’re another tree that “doesn’t really lose their needles – and they have a really unique look to them. They’re beautiful. They’re just an absolutely gorgeous tree, but I don’t grow them here on my property. They’re a very slow-growing tree.”
There appear to be fewer Colorado blue spruce available this year, McGuire said. She usually sells them as potted trees, but this year there won’t be as many.
“We’re going to have Fraser fir in the pots,” she added, plus “we’ve got some blue spruce, and we’ve got Norwegian spruce in the pots.”
Everybody has their own ideas of Christmas tree perfection, McGuire noted. “ Sometimes it surprises us what people pick out of our trees.”
This year they’ll be picking Fraser firs over all the others, she said, “because they just don’t drop their needles and they last forever. The second would be the Noble, and then there’d be the Grand – the Grands are the ones that have got the good smell. And then the Douglas is your traditional tree. They’re very traditional, but people are getting into these trees that last forever.”
Each has its special charm, depending on preferred decorating styles.
“The sparse looking trees would probably be your Nobles and your Frasers; they’re way more open,” McGuire noted. “The Grand fir and your Douglas fir are very, very thick, like you kind of glue the ornaments on them, I guess.”
Whatever the variety, the trees need a lot of loving care to reach their Christmas destinations.
“Everybody thinks you just stick them in the ground and they grow that way, but they don’t; you’ve got to keep the weeds down, you’ve got to fertilize them, you’ve got to shear them to get them into that perfect shape,” McGuire explained.
And then there are the wild cards, she said pointing to wasps and wildlife.
For instance, there are deer and coyotes – and this year a black bear – who visit.
“And the bucks… do they wreck my trees!” said McGuire. “Do they wreck my trees! Right now they’re rutting. He takes his horns – and he loves the Fraser firs, because that’s the tree that everybody wants – and he just goes up and down them and takes all the branches off. It’s amazing.”
“I just leave him, and I hope next year he goes back to that tree,” she laughed, “but it doesn’t work that way. Over the years he’s wrecked a lot of trees.”
But even a pesky buck has his up side. She has neighbours who have offered to “get rid of him for me, but no! You know, the first week we’re open here, there are still deer on the property, and the kids might see them, and of course we tell them it’s Rudolph, right?”
Churchland opens on Saturday, Nov. 25.
For more about openings and offerings of the many Christmas tree farms and nurseries in and around Langley this year, visit the BC Christmas Tree Council at bcchristmastrees.com or below:
LISTING OF LOCAL CHRISTMAS TREE OUTLETS:
4726 248th St.
8659 252nd St.
• Fern Creek Farm
22441 79th Ave.
2828 208th St.
24488 52nd Ave.
5871 248th St.
24555 32nd Ave.
21858 Maxwell Cres.
• Sorensen Tree Farm
1729 236th St.
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