When it comes to buying a Christmas tree in Centre County there’s no shortage of options. There are plenty of places to grab and go — places like the big-box retailers.
But if family tradition calls for a trip to a tree farm or farm stand, well, there are choices to be made.
Remodelers Workshop in Bellefonte sells locally grown cut trees that are brought up from a Stormstown farm.
Like most of the local tree farmers, Remodelers sells Douglas fir, Canaan fir, Fraser fir, concolor fir and blue spruce trees. And the trees are cut and restocked regularly, so they’re fresh.
Like Remodelers, Tim Altero, who has set up shop at Meyer Dairy, sells only cut trees. Given a history of harsh winters, Altero said, a lot of people just don’t want to brave the cold to cut down their own trees.
Trees have been sold at Meyer Dairy in College Township for 25 years, Altero said, and this will be his first year running the stand, having taken it over from his brother, who ran it for 10 years.
“It’s very much a family business,” he said, adding that his brother is still involved.
Altero gets his trees — Douglas, Canaan, a Fraser-balsam hybrid, blue spruce and concolor — from Tuckaway Tree Farm in McAlevys Fort, where trees are also sold to the public.
Co-owners Chris Kiratzis and Bob Nichol welcome tree — and wreath and garland — shoppers to cut their own. Or not.
It’s a bit of a drive, but on a nice, clear winter day, the view from Jo Hayes Vista is worth a pit stop along the way.
Closer to home, it’s all Fraser firs at Kuhns Tree Farm.
“It’s a hard tree to beat,” said Larry Kuhns who, along with his wife, Marianne, has been selling trees — pre-cut and you-cut — on the farm just east of State College since 1981.
The Fraser fir, he said, has soft needles that stay on the tree longer and stiff branches that hold ornaments well.
Kuhns is a Penn State professor emeritus of ornamental horticulture. He said the Christmas tree growing cycle is about 10 years.
So that 7-footer a customer cuts down next week was planted at about 4 years old. It then grew for six or seven years into being at the center of someone’s holiday.
Kuhns, like Altero, also sells wreaths, garlands and stands.
Just up the road, “The trees have not ever been better,” said John Tait, owner of Tait Farm Trees. He, too, sells Fraser, Canaan, concolor and Douglas firs, blue spruce and some Southwest white pines.
Tait said it’s been a good growing season, with timely rain and good pruning.
The best care for a long-lasting tree, he said, begins with choosing a fresh one.
If it’s not fresh and it’s already dry, it won’t take up water and will just keep drying out, he said. A freshly cut tree should last well into January.
Once it’s home, the first water it’s given should be very warm or hot. After that, just room temperature will do. Keep it watered above the cut end, too, because once the stand is dry below the bottom of the trunk, the tree won’t take up water.
It’s best to use a large-capacity stand, too. And, for what it’s worth, Tait said, don’t waste money on additives. They don’t work.
Most of Tait Farm’s Christmas tree customers choose to cut their own trees. Many others, Tait said, would like to but are short on time or can’t physically do it. Trees are cut every few days for those who prefer not to do the sawing.
He has lots of big trees this year — up to 13 feet. And new this year is an information kiosk with a guide to cutting trees and a map of the farm.
The traditions remain, too. Tait Farm offers hayrides, and visitors make a holiday-season ritual of stopping by the barn to see the Basset hounds he raises.
The Harvest Shop, which sells gift baskets and Tait Farm foods, is open for business, as is the Tree House, where wreaths, garlands and ornaments are sold.
All of the farms and stands open the day after Thanksgiving and stay open until Dec. 23, with the exceptions of Tannenbaum Farm, which is open until 5 p.m. Dec. 22, and Tait Farm, which is open until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve.