So, as you head out to chose the family Christmas tree, did you ever wonder where exactly it came from? Did you ever think about how it grew so perfect or when it started its journey into your home?
Well, Ken Risher of _Mahoney’s Garden Center_ can tell you all that and more about a lot of the Christmas trees available for purchase at their stores.
This year 8,000 of those trees arrived in the Boston area straight from Mahoney’s own farm in Nova Scotia. Sitting on approximately 500 acres of land this farm is a natural growing balsam fir plantation owned and operated by Mahoney’s.
If you, like me, envisioned a Christmas Tree Farm where straight rows of carefully planted trees sit waiting to be cut down and brought home then, you too, are sadly mistaken.
At Mahoney’s Nova Scotia farm all trees are growing naturally and farming could be more accurately referred to as land management. Risher, along with the rest of the Mahoney’s crew, makes several trips to Nova Scotia throughout the year to nurture the trees and the fir forest.
The forest itself is managed year round by Mahoney’s Canadian staff that begins the year by cutting down hardwoods encroaching on the fir trees. In the spring, crews fertilize the trees and spray for insects & disease as needed. Next, during the summer months of July and August Mahoney’s crew arrives to assist in trimming and shaping the mature trees. No small task, each tree takes, and as Risher explained. “About 5–10 minutes to trim properly.”
Next on the agenda are several trips in the late fall to choose and tag the trees that will be shipped out that season. Once again, the work is tedious and is always done with a distinct plan in mind. In many cases one tree is chosen in order to allow another to grow more fully.
“We are very selective in order to protect the crop,” explained Risher. “We are always working with the future of the plantation in mind.”
The trees themselves take about 7–8 years to reach the preferred height and, during those years, Mahoney’s does everything possible to allow them to thrive and multiply. As larger trees are removed, smaller trees are then given the chance to grow and, eventually, become Christmas Trees.
Of course, in some cases, small trees have simply sprouted too close to one another and, left alone, one would eventually smother the other. This is where a tree is tagged for removal and becomes one of the popular smaller sized trees sold in Mahoney’s lots. A perfect fit for a small apartment or room these trees provide holiday cheer where a 6-foot tree simply would not fit.
What might surprise you the most is that many of the older, larger trees are left in place each year as seed trees, therefore, ensuring that the forest will continue grow.
“The forest appears virtually undisturbed each year,” said Risher. “We tag trees for removal, a crew comes in to cut them and when we return the next day it’s hard to tell that anything was done.”
Holiday decorating, however, isn’t only about the tree. At Mahoney’s they carry garland, poinsettias, decorations, garden gifts, as well as artificial trees.
Mahoney’s also offers an assortment of signature wreaths and basket assortments also. Once again, you might be surprised where these come from.
In the late fall when trees are being removed for shipment crews do one last cleanup and trim the remaining trees one more time. It’s these trimmings that make their way to the Boston Area to become some of the holiday accessories we have all come to love. From wreathes to baskets these trimmings adorn our homes and make us smile.
For most of us Christmas Trees are something we take for granted. For Ken Risher and the rest of the Mahoney’s crew they are something to be nurtured, cared for and, eventually, brought home.