According to the Hope Maine Historical Society, the earliest European settlers did not grow, sell or use Christmas trees. German immigrants introduced the Christmas tree to Maine after the Revolution but it was well into the 19th century before it became a common practice with non-German Americans. Initially people cut down their own balsam fir trees which Mainers still consider the best Christmas tree.
Christmas trees as a business did not start until the early 1900’s. At that time some people cut and sold trees from pastures and others grew trees to sell. The trees were felled and bundles in bunches of three to four trees with heavy twine. In the early times good and bad trees were bundles together. The bundles (about 600 per boxcar) were loaded into boxcars at the railroad station and shipped to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and as far as Washington D.C.
In the early days animals in the pastures pruned the trees making good quality solitary trees. By the middle of the 1900’s tree growers started planting seedlings in rows. Acres of balsam and Douglas fir were planted. Planting trees is fairly easy but producing a well-shaped healthy Christmas tree requires a great deal of work. Pruning is the most labor intensive part of growing the trees. In Maine Christmas trees do all of their growing between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. They are pruned after that time period. Most growers fertilize their trees to make them more dense and have slightly longer needles.
The last census in 2012 showed 5,694 acres in Maine producing Christmas trees, 195,833 trees were harvested and there were 310 tree farms. Throughout the state there are 1.2 million Christmas trees growing. Maine is the largest producer in New England, but California and Oregon are the largest producers.
1. Make sure the tree is not dry with needles falling off.
2. Select the correct height for your ceiling allowing room for the base and an ornament on the top.
3. Look for good symmetry.,
4. Select a full tree with no “holes.”
5. Know how tall and wide the space for your tree is.
6. Once you select a tree get it in water within a few hours. Once it dries up it will not draw water anymore. Water your tree daily.
About half of Maine’s Christmas trees start out in Fryeburg, Maine. The Western Maine Forest Museum grows about 500,000 seedlings each year.
I chuckle about the tree selection suggestion “Select a full tree with no holes.” As a child growing up in Maine, each year my father and I would go into the woods to get a Christmas tree. No matter how great we thought the tree looked, when we got it home my mother would see a “hole” in it. That problem was rapidly solved by my father cutting a really good tree and a not so good tree each year. He would drill a hole where she saw a “hole” and insert a branch from the not so good tree!
Trees for Rockefeller Center in New York City have sometimes come from Maine. Check out the photos. It is not easy to comeget that tree from a field on a Maine farm to the center of New York City!
Merry Christmas and Happy Tree Decorating from all of us at Ocean Point Inn!
Copyright & Photos property of Ocean Point Inn 2015.