KENTUCKY CHRISTMAS TREE PRODUCTION WORKBOOK:
USE OF "CULL" TREES*
Deborah B. Hill
No matter how carefully you plan, plant
and maintain your Christmas tree plantation, chances are you will end up
with some trees that you think you cannot market as trees, You may or may
not be right because consumer preference for Christmas trees varies tremendously.
Some like their trees tall and slender, some like them short and fat. Beauty,
truly, lies in the eye of the beholder! And although the USDA has established
standards, (USDA U.S. Standards for Grades of Christmas Trees, 1990 (See
FOR-34), many trees not classified as "premium" trees are still salable
in the retail market.
However, if you truly have trees that
will not sell as trees, do something else with them. so that you can profit
from your work in raising them. The most common alternative use is to make
wreaths of the greens from these trees. Greens from a standard 6 ft tree
can probably make 2 or 3 wreaths. When such wreaths are conservatively
priced at $10 apiece, the tree can actually be more profitable as wreaths
than as a tree. Use decorations that are typical for the region -- holly
is fairly common in Kentucky, for example; you could put sprigs of holly
in the wreaths -- seaside places use shells! Several companies manufacture
a variety of wreath-making equipment and supplies, ranging from around
$50 to well over $1000. Before investing in anything, watch an equipment
demonstration and learn as much as possible about it. Both equipment and
demonstrations are usually found at state and regional Christmas tree grower
meetings. See FOR-34 for information on Christmas
tree grower associations. Some growers have easily paid for their equipment
with the results from one seasons work.
Other options include roping, swags
(a bundle of several branches tied at the branch end and fanned out--usually
with a bow at the top and sometimes with other bows, pine cones or other
ornaments in the greens), grave blankets, and other displays (e.g. centerpieces
for tables) made of greens and other decorations. You can even simply bundle
the greens from unusable trees and from the bases of good trees and sell
them by the pound or bundle for consumers to use as they please for decoration.
Another way of using trees with marginal
quality is to cut one or two, mount them in stands, and decorate them for
consumers to see. as they come in. Often an odd tree looks just fine when
covered with shiny ornaments and tinsel. You could also decorate one for
birds and other wildlife with strings of cranberries and popcorn and balls
of suet and peanut butter.
Trees that grow a bit too fast and
become outsized can be topped to make a pretty, small, tabletop tree. Some
growers have been very successful with tying two small spindly trees together
to make one larger, fuller tree. Once decorated, no one knows the difference.
Trees with a flat side could be advertised as ideal for a small apartment,
because they sit closer to the wall than a regular symmetrical tree; trees
with two poor sides could go in corners, etc. As the old saying goes, "If
you're given lemons, make lemonade!"
The basic message here is that you
have invested much time, money and energy into growing your Christmas trees.
If you are to optimize your return on investment, you should consider all
options for utilizing all that material for your benefit.
*The word cull in forestry usually describes a tree that for some
reason--species, location in the forest structure (understory, overstory),
shape quality -- is undesirable and therefore should be removed. Quotation
marks are used here because the word is used somewhat differently.