The firs fly: Christmas tree sales pick up in Abilene, the Big Country

·4 min read

If you want a real Christmas tree, especially, be aware: The firs are flying.

Perusing a forest of live trees suspended and swinging just outside of Garden World on Tuesday, Felipe Aguilar had clear visions of what he and his shopping companions were seeking.

"It's the first time we're going with a real one," he said, taking time to look at each example with an eye for bulk and build. "And it's also the first time we're actually going to put it up in time."

Among the most intoxicating characteristics, he said, is the scent - a sweet, forest-green smell permeating the nursery.

Will Woods sprays water on Christmas trees Tuesday at Garden World.
Will Woods sprays water on Christmas trees Tuesday at Garden World.

That "natural smell," Aguilar said, is one of the biggest draws for real versus artificial.

Swift sellers

While there was initial concern about the supply of cut trees, but Will Woods, the appropriately-named overhang manager at Garden World, said that didn't turn out to be a problem.

"We had heard there was an issue, but I think we got all of our cut trees in," he said. "I know a lot of places are having problems. I don't know if we just put our order in sooner."

Real trees are by far the most popular, he said, larger stock selling quickly and only a couple of the bigger examples left.

The store sells Noble, Douglas and Nordmann firs, prices set by size and other characteristics.

"We always sell the larger trees first," Woods said. "That's just the way it is. People that set up early are looking for the big ones. And then toward the end of the season, that last week or two prior, it's usually the smaller trees."

This year's sales seem off to a better start than normal, he said.

"The next two weekends are typically our peak," Woods said.

Trees weren't to be found, however, at several other nurseries in town.

Mankins and Sons Gardens stopped selling Christmas trees a few years ago, while Down to Earth didn't get any to stock this year.

Willow Creek Gardens doesn't offer cut trees, but has potted options, as do stores such as Lowe's.

Harold and Betty Sloan look over the small Christmas tree they selected at the south side Lowe's on Tuesday.
Harold and Betty Sloan look over the small Christmas tree they selected at the south side Lowe's on Tuesday.

'Artificial' shortage

At Lowe's on the city's south side, manager Chris Price said the store already has sold through its stock of artificial trees, though live trees still are available.

"I think customers bought earlier this year," he said. "Normally, the biggest sales day of the year is after Thanksgiving, but we sold through a lot of items prior (to the holiday). So right now, the only thing that is left are live trees."

Those arrive a week or so before Thanksgiving, "whereas we had our artificial ones for probably six to eight weeks," he said.

Price said he, too, had heard of possible supply issues with artificial trees because "most of that stuff gets imported."

"But we had a full selection," he said. "People just bought them up."

Do-it-yourself

Further afield, Millican's Heritage Christmas Tree Farm near Cross Plains already has had good crowds, some driving as far as from Midland to the family-owned business.

"We were very, very busy all day Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon," said Joan Millican, who co-owns the business with her husband, Larry. "It was the best weekend we've ever had."

Many turn to real trees, she said, in Millican's opinion "better for the environment, for the economy, everything."

"Every time we cut down a tree, we plant a tree," she said. "So we're not filling up the landfills with plastic."

A fateful and fun day years ago picking out a Christmas tree in Quinlan, which is east of Dallas, and subsequent "Christmas Tree days" filled with happy memories, inspired the family to seek its own fortunes in the business, she said.

Moving back to the Abilene area, where she was raised, Millican inherited land in Cross Plains that was her great grandfather's.

She found it to be "the perfect setting for a Christmas tree farm," she said.

Family fun

First and foremost, "everybody wants a big tree," Millican said.

The business orders trees from North Carolina, bringing in Fraser firs for a pre-cut option.

"If you want to cut a tree, we have Afghan pines," she said. "We have Leyland cypress and a couple of varieties of Arizona cypress."

One particularly pretty variety of the latter is called "Blue Ice," she said.

Potted trees are also available for those who prefer to plant.

Millican said she expects crowds to continue through the holiday season.

Customers "come to have a tree that's soft and smells good, and they come to experience cutting down a tree," she said. "We have picnic areas, it's a very family experience."

Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for the Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: The firs fly as Big Country Christmas tree sales pick up

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