Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Different Tree


For as long as I can remember, I've wanted a different kind of Christmas tree.  A natural, unshaped, old-fashioned Christmas tree.


Maybe a little bit "It's a Wonderful Life"...


...or a little bit Victorian...



...or just one that isn't trimmed into a perfect cone.


Some of friends say, Oh, you mean a Charlie Brown Christmas tree!

I say, Good Grief, no.

Others say I'm just a sucker for the underdog.  

What's wrong with rooting for the underdog?



Each year I set out to find my different tree.  I've been to scores of Christmas tree places and as of yet, I've failed.   I figure somewhere in New England they must grow trees like this so I searched on the internet.


I finally found the kind of tree I've been looking for on a blog called Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons on a post from a few years ago.  These are from a place called Brita's Old Town Gardens in Seal Beach, California.  The blogger's name is Tracey and she was kind enough to e-mail me.  She believes it's a Noble Fir but they've always called it "The Night Before Christmas Tree."  I e-mailed Brita's Garden and they believe based on my description it's a Silver Tip.

At least I know they exist and I have an idea what to ask for.


So I headed over to Mahoney's garden center in Brighton.  They have several locations in Eastern Massachusetts but this one is just a few miles from my house.



For an urban garden center, they have a good selection of things and have a helpful, knowledgeable staff.


I immediately see something I like.  It's a living tree and too big but let's take a closer look.


Turns out it's a rare specimen tree.


Here's a smaller one that's just about the perfect size.  I'd be thrilled with something like this but at $399, it's out of the question.



Their opinion was these are natural growth trees that haven't been trimmed all their lives to go to market.  They even thought the one on the left wasn't real.  They even have Noble Firs but they're trimmed and look nothing like the one from Brita's.  They didn't have what I was looking for but they couldn't have been more helpful.  I think if I had pressed them, I think they would have made one for me.


I came home with two trees and a pair of these.

Stay tuned.

(If anyone know where they grow and/or sell trees like these in New England, leave me a comment or drop me an e-mail.)

55 comments:

  1. Ha, ha, ha, I cracked up over the sheers, I was going to suggest you buy a tree from Home Depot and snip away! Can't wait to see what you create!

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  2. gosh steve, nobles are practically the only kind of trees here. home depot and lowes, everyone has them. so at least in cali they are pretty ordinary. i love the $800 one though. and i know what you mean about wanting something different.

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  3. I did not expect the shears at the end! too funny!

    Do people really pay that much for a Christmas tree? I gasped at $50 for mine.

    Can't wait to see it ~

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  4. Sarah,
    It's not really meant to be a Christmas tree. It's a rare specimen tree you would plant in the yard...in front of your VERY nice house.

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  5. Oh I am with you on the overly perfect trees, they have no character. I'm all for thinning and reshaping the cone shaped overly full Christmas tree.

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  6. Have you looked through the Adventurous Gardener? You can look up conifers and see who grows them without pruning. What ARE those shears?

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  7. here in the wild west we just get a permit from the Forest Service and go out in the woods to cut just the kind of tree you want. In fact Camille's mom probably has several (im)perfect specimens in her "yard"

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  8. We always have a noble fir, but I have to admit ours is sort of the perfect, classic tree shape. I love the silver underside of the needles. Good luck, Steve!

    xo
    Claudia

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  9. I know what you mean. We now live in a world that wants real trees to look perfect. The worst is when they spray paint them greenish blue. It takes a lot of work to get the natural look...how odd is that? Pretty soon Santa will have a face lift and a tummy tuck.

    Kathy

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  10. I don't care so much about the tree...I just wanna look like Donna Reed does in that picture when I'm decorating it!

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  11. The last photo on the left - It looks similar to a Blue Atlas (spruce - I think). They are in most garden centers here in Oklahoma and are very reasonably priced. Maybe it would give you the look you are going for.

    Good Luck and Merry Christmas

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  12. No - it's a Blue Atlas Cedar - not Spruce............

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  13. I can't help you out at all.
    But I look forward to seeing what you will create!
    I'm not putting up a tree this year but for a while I had thought I might. I was looking in the ravine for a big dead branch to spray paint white and stick in a bucket of sand or cement. I planned on decorating it sparcely. But...I'm doing nothing except for the one on my front steps.
    (I do have to admit that every year I feel my heart pulled by the smushed bent leftover ones in the tree lots...I'm a sucker for the imperfect. What ever it may be.)

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  14. I'm sure there are plenty of Charlie Brown trees out there who would be happy to adorn your home! Come up to Vermont and chop one down!

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  15. You could stalk them in the wild - White Mtns, NH - http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/green/greenblog/2010/11/a_white_mountain_wild_christma.html

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  16. *** SOOOO HAPPY that I just "found you"... what a delightful blog and, of course, I A*D*O*R*E your TREE!!!! It's just, wellll, TOOOO WONDERFUL!!!! (Me want one!!!)...

    I enjoyed alllll of THIS post, AND others you've written in the past that I just finished reading... thank you!

    Linda in AZ *
    bellesmom1234@comcast.net

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  17. I know this post is about trees, but I am digging those shears. Full review, please.
    Camille

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  18. My friend in Vermont chops his down every year and it's always a misshapen wild beauty, I love simple Christmas trees, I've gone with white roses and a huge pile if acorns around the base.

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  19. Hi, Linda. Thank you for stopping by.

    Camille, I just grabbed a pruner that looked like it would cut some healthy branches. It's a Flexrake Ratchet Pruner and there's a paragraph of mumbo-jumbo about pruners haven't changed since 1800. It's got an ergonomic handle and carbon steel blade. It seems to work well but I nothing to compare to.

    Tabitha and Sprout, I think that's a way to go. Thanks for the link, Spout.

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  20. For a number of years while the children were in high school and college, we would drive out to the Christmas Tree Farm in Middleburg, VA where it seemed we hiked for miles up and down hills through "wild" trees. Inevitably, once home the tree we cut down would consume our modest family room and we loved them all. The owners of that farm must have sold a good deal of their land because one year we found that our search was confined to regular rows of "gum drop" shaped long needle pines and some nice but far too perfect spruce. More recently, we have found very fresh and minimally pruned trees from SC at the nearby "Whole Foods Forest" tree lot. One awaits us downstairs needing lights and ornaments. It will be a fun morning.
    Cannot wait to meet your tree, Steve.
    Happy day.
    Linda

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  21. annieb is right, plenty here in Vermont! That's what we did last year and it was a very Charlie Brown tree ;). Not so sure about this year just yet. The pruned Christmas trees are often too full to show the ornaments very well.

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  22. Mahoneys does know their stuff~I worked at the one in Winchester when I was 20 years old. My 19 yr old spent the summer working at Mahoneys on the vineyard. I bet they would have trimmed one up for you to create the look you wanted. I remember seeing a tutorial by Martha Stewart on severely trimming a standard tree to make lots of space between the branches. I'll be waiting on your tree!! Love the pics~

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  23. Hell with the tree I just want to go to Mahoney's.

    Meanwhile after a not so wild night of debauchery I'm off to home Depot.

    Thank God we have you to hold up the glamor end of the business.

    xo jane

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  24. I can't help but totally agree with you, I have always loved a "natural" looking tree, with space between the branches (and one that smells really good, too). I can't wait to see your tree after it's "haircut".

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  25. Good for you!! I like that you are going to create your vision, can't wait to see it!
    Kathysue

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  26. This is exactly the kind of tree I want every year...just yesterday as we wandered through two tree lots along PCH, there were plenty that would make me happy...my kids never want "a different kind of tree"...always looking for a perfect one...I can't wait to see what you come up with...you are probably working away right now!

    Also, I love urban garden centers...they have the most well edited selection of everything. I don't always love the prices, but I do get it....they have to charge a lot.

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  27. Waiting to see how you and the shears make out!
    xo Dianne

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  28. I am DYING for the big reveal! Your posts kill me. Every. time. Even my mother is completely hooked on your posts. How long, pray tell, till we see this beauty?

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  29. My challenge this year was to find a tabletop tree that didn't look like a seedling. I settled on a 5-ft. tree and had it trimmed down to 3 feet.

    That gothic architectural element at Mahoney's is what I'd lust after!

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  30. I love the natural look too. The more open the tree, the more room for beautiful ornaments! Starting with a really bare tree is a must in my book. Can't wait to see yours all trimmed and finished out.

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  31. can't wait to see your transformation. i too deplore the "ordinary" christmas tree shape, so boring!
    debra

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  32. Hahahah...I love the way you think. With your creativity and tenacity I am certain we are all in for a visual treat!

    Warmly,
    Tracey
    x0x

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  33. As the gardener's cottage says, those trees are ordinary here in Southern CA. I'll look forward to seeing what you end up with. Some day, I would like to have a Norfolk Island Pine for Christmas...that's the tree we had when I was a kid in Hawaii.

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  34. You may want to check out Alpine fir trees.They are living trees that have that "Nordic" look.

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  35. Ionstads,
    Thank you! Those do look like a very good possibility.

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  36. Can't wait to see what you end up with Steve. You know, Eddie Ross did a post a LONG (maybe 3 or 4 years) time ago where he did essentially what you're going to do, and trimmed out a good portion of the branches to hang ornaments. It was beautiful, and I know yours will be too! I'm posting about the outside of the house tomorrow, and my less interesting and very fake trees on Tuesday. Hope you'll stop in!
    xo,
    Artie
    http://niagaranovice.blogspot.com

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  37. When I was a kid I thought Charlie Brown was a dick for not picking the shiny pink metal tree. Now as an adult I realize he actually had good taste. You and I are kindred souls. I've been looking for the perfect 'non' shaped tree for years - with no success. Finally a few years ago I planted my own. But, I let them get out of control and have thought it was too late...but the idea of cutting into the shape I want has never crossed my mind. The tree is already up this year...but you'd better believe I know what to do next year!

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  38. Steve, we had all manner of godforsaken-looking Christmas trees growing up, which Dad cut himself on our own wood lot. We never knew what it would be - big round squat scotch pine or perfect elegant fraser fir or something Charlie Brown would love. Mom and I waited with bated breath each Christmas for Dad to come home grouchy and swearing with a tree he had carried out of the bush...those were the days. :)

    I think you just need to find someone who lives in the country...

    Good luck! xo Terri

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  39. Steve, that is indeed a Silvertip. They are grown in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. This is the type of tree I have had for many years (since childhood) and a wonderful man used to special order one for me every year. Brita's is one of the few places around here (I live near Seal Beach) who sells them. We see lots of Noble firs here. I now have an artificial Silvertip that I have had for many years, which I bought after my tree connection passed away. It is beautiful, but alas, not real.

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  40. Thanks for the info. I was pretty sure they were after doing some research. I found a place called the Silvertip Tree Farm that will cut and ship them. Shipping is free in CA but it would be pretty pricey to have one shipped to the east cost. Thanks again!

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  41. I'm SOOOO with ya on the tree thing!!
    ...just blogged...whined!..about it AGAIN this year!
    http://cindypetters.blogspot.com/

    Last year my post was one big rant!
    http://cindypetters.blogspot.com/2010/12/perfectnotsoperfect-tree-and-birthday.html

    LOVED visiting you! I will often!!
    ...come for a ride and get a tree!!
    Cindy

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  42. saw a similar tree on a house tour in Scituate MA.Heard someone say it was from pembroke tree farm. I know of one on the pembroke Duxbury line off route 53 or maybe check Tomasi in pembroke!! I might go on the same hunt will keep you posted!

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  43. I do love these trees, but boy they are pricey! For some reason my husband and I could go on any lot and some how we would always bring home a Charlie Brown tree! I don't know how we did it, but we did. We finally bought a fake tree....

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  44. Oh I can't wait to see what you end up with. I love anything to do with an old fashioned Christmas. Our tree last year was light and airy, we never see those around here either.

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  45. I have always wanted an imperfect tree too. I do have one that a florist made. It's got lots of space between the branches and I love that because I like to hang lots of stuff between. Alas it is only four feet tall. It looked great in an urn in my other house but here with the tall ceilings...it just looked to small for the room. I've been thinking of making one but it would cost a fortune to buy all the floral branches I'd need to make it.

    I know Martha Stewart...always cuts out the branches to make her trees opened up. Can't wait to see how your's turns out. I love the swags you added to your header house.

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  46. ooh, got kind of fatigued trying to read through all those, so please forgive me if someone already said this - to me, the kind of tree you like seems to be the kind you get in England. We have some family there and since living in the North East whenever I spend any time there at Christmas I am taken aback by how different and sparse their trees are compared to ours. Maybe your real solution is to not look at the Christmas photos from overseas magazines? :) Good luck, though, hope it comes out brilliantly.

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  47. I love all the comments! Hope you find a tree!

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  48. I love this post and all of these different trees. Up near Nashua there are a couple of big tree farms where I've cut down trees in March or May for Christmas photo shoots. I'm always attracted to that different tree too that would never work for most editorial pieces. Bundle up and walk until you find that imperfect one that is just perfect for you!

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  49. I guess we are luck here in No Cali. I love our silver tip tree we get they are $$$ but so worth it ($80-for 6 ft).

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  50. I want a silvertip Christmas tree but it seems they grow at elevation - 8,000 ft and so far the only place that carries them is a farm with the same name in Ca. Needless to say they are pricey and come with a pricey shipping fee but they will ship them UPS.

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  51. http://www.silvertiptreefarm.com

    And they ship!

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  52. Hi Urban Cottage, we are preparing to have our second "self trimmed" tree this year. I have viewed your blog for a couple of years, always returning to your pics of your trimmed out tree. We had great success last year. We bought a Fraser Fir, the most readily available trees in our SC coastal area. (except for the pines, cedars, and cypress that are grown at our local tree farms. The Fraser was cooperative and yielded to our shears, turning out to be a lovely spacious display for all of our ornaments... so I say, snip away!

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  53. Hi Urban Cottage - this post has ruined me! There is no way that I can ever have a regular tree again. But I am writing to tell you that I found a tree lot that has a few odd ball trees that are like these silver tips. It is in Southboro, MA on Southville Road between Fiddle Neck Lane and Homestead Boulevard Drive. It is a cut your own, cash only place. Really small but run by a really nice guy. Hope you find your tree nirvana there.

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