(Photo by Michelle Felter, Staff)
"It reminds them of past Christmases at grandma's house, when they were little kids," said Shirley McCall, co-owner of Garden Lane in Sikeston. Others just like the smell of a fresh tree, she said.
The nursery sells Fraser fir trees through the holiday season.
"I think it's a lot tradition," agreed Jim Shelton, co-chairman of the Christmas tree sales by the American Legion Post 369 in Benton. The club has a lot next to the fire station off Highway 61, and sells Scotch, Fraser and Balsam fir trees.
All proceeds are used to send a Scott County teen to Boy's State, a weeklong leadership conference held each summer in Warrensburg.
Both tree lots have had brisk sales in the past week. "As soon as we set them up, people stopped in and started buying," said Shelton.
And if people do things right, the trees should remain fresh and full through the holidays.
"When they leave the lot, if they are going to put (the trees) up right away, we put a fresh cut on the bottom of the tree. That is most important," said McCall. "It needs to be done so the tree can soak up water. "If you make sure it never goes dry, you should have a nice tree all through the holidays."
And they drink a lot -- especially in the first couple of days -- so those with real trees shouldn't underestimate how much water it needs. "If the trunk dries out and sap grows over, it won't be able to drink anymore and will dry off," she continued.
At the Benton lot, American Legion members also perform the cut for buyers. "And we'll shape the tree for them, too, if they want," said Shelton.
It can be difficult for people to choose the right tree. But the two provided some tips to help.
"You can hardly ever find a 'perfect' tree," said Shelton. "We tell people that if you find a tree you like that's three-fourths good, go ahead and buy it. You can just turn the other part towards the wall."
McCall said the No. 1 concern should be the height and size of the tree. "Make sure it's going to fit in your door and in your house," she said. The trees they sell range from about 6 to 12 feet.
Other than that, the choice really has to do with personal preference. "Some people like them nice and full," said McCall. "And then some like them where they have more space in between the branches because it gives them more room in the tree."
According to a news release from Country Living Association, consumers can even conduct a freshness test on trees. It said green needles on fresh trees break crisply when bent sharply with the fingers. However, pines are different and because of the fibrous nature of their needles, they have different indicators compared to firs. The needles on fresh pines do not break, unless they are very dry.
The association said other indicators of dryness or deterioration include excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor and needle pliability or wrinkled bark. As a rule of thumb, it recommended that if one is in doubt about the freshness of a tree, they should select another one.
Although some have a tradition of waiting to get their tree until Christmas Eve, it's a good idea to get in the lots early to have the best selection.
"We usually sell out pretty well by the third weekend (Dec. 12-14)," said Shelton. And with the late Thanksgiving this year, he expected a lot of sales this weekend at the lot, which is open during evenings on weeknights and through the day Monday through Friday.
There are safety tips to follow when it comes to decorating the trees, too. "Make sure your lights are in good working order," said McCall. "There shouldn't be any frayed cords or anything like that."
Sgt. Jim McMillen, public information officer for the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, offered other safety tips in a news release. He suggested keeping the tree away from heat sources, sparks and flames; tying the tree to a wall or ceiling to prevent it from falling over; checking all lighting and only using UL approved lights and extension cords; not to overlaod extension cords or outlets; and also keeping the trees moist so they don't dry out and create a fire hazard.