Many options to find Christmas trees on Martha’s Vineyard

Both SBS (shown here) and Hinckley's are selling trees to benefit the Tisbury Fire Department. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

It’s beginning to a look a whole lot like Christmas around the Vineyard, and not just because of the twinkling lights and decorated store windows. The unmistakable sign that Santa’s on his way is the proliferation of small forests of Christmas trees, magically springing up all over the Island. These woodlands are temporary — they’ll be gone in a few weeks — but while here they are a festive addition to the landscape.

Some among us will opt for an artificial tree. They are tidy and neat, reliably safe and sturdy from the day you unpack them and unfold their plastic branches to the moment they go back in the cellar. An artificial tree is a thrifty choice — one will last for years! Some come already lighted, some decorated, and some in brilliant, very un-treelike colors. Even environmentalists now laud them as a conservationist’s alternative to killing an innocent fir or pine.

But for most, a real Christmas tree — cut or live — is the tradition that brings the holidays to life. No matter how many carols, parties, cookies, and church bazaars come before, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas until we carry the tree in the front door. A real tree is like a big, friendly dog. It will probably shed, mess up the floor, and cause unforeseen household mishaps, but the wealth of warmth and goodwill it adds is priceless.

There are a number of sources for trees on the Island, and probably one in your own neighborhood. We list a few here.

Eden in Vineyard Haven has been transformed from a garden shop into a Christmas oasis. Hundreds of trees are tucked into every nook and corner, replacing summer’s plants and flowers. There are many live trees including Blue, White, and Norway Spruce and White Pines with long, feathery needles. Displayed on racks and against sheds and fences is a large selection of cut Canadian trees from 4 to 12 feet tall.

Staff member Claudius “Salty” Agard said some customers like to buy an enormous tree and cut it to a smaller size. “Most customers shy away from live trees, because they’re too much of a hassle,” he said. But some families come and buy one each year to plant in the yard.

Along with its heavy root ball, which can be hard to move, a live tree can be in the house only a short time. Mr. Agard advised keeping a live tree indoors only four to five days at most and in a cool room.

As one family browsed among the cut trees, a young staff member explained that Balsam Firs have that familiar “Christmas tree” smell, but are likely to shed some of their needles. Although Fraser Firs are more tidy and less likely to shed, they lack the traditional aroma, causing one more merry dilemma for customers trying to decide how tall and how full the 2011 tree should be.

SBS has a few very healthy-looking live trees out front, just begging to be decorated, displayed indoors, then popped into your yard. They include Fraser Fir, Colorado Blue, and White Spruces from nearby tree farms.

For “one-stop shopping,” Tim Clark offers fresh-cut trees in front of the former Bowl and Board amidst the crowded stores in Vineyard Haven. It’s possible to purchase gifts, stock up on groceries, grab lunch, and choose a Christmas tree without ever having to move the car.

Donaroma’s in Edgartown is already famous for the beautifully decorated trees they display each year, offering inspiration to those trimming their own trees at home. But they also have a good selection of cut and live trees for sale. Staff member Kathie Case reports there are still plenty of cut Balsam and Fraser Firs from 5 to 11 feet, although sales have been brisk. Live trees include 5- to 6 foot Douglas Firs and Hemlocks. The nursery provides all the cute table-top trees that create a festive atmosphere on Edgartown streets during the Christmas season.

Inside the greenhouse, for a creative change from a traditional fir tree, Donaroma’s offers prettily decorated miniature boxwood trees and other trees that could be dressed up for the holidays.

The creative elves at Donaroma’s are busy this week decorating the themed Town Trees and a towering Vineyard Tree that will be on show at their Open House Friday, Dec. 9, and many other trees which will be sparkling with lights. “Come see, because they’re beautiful!” Ms. Case urged.

Nearby on the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road at Morning Glory Farm, an attractive selection of cut trees are set out, creating a holiday atmosphere for customers entering the store. Freshly cut in Connecticut just before Thanksgiving, the aromatic evergreens are sure to last.

If you visit Jardin Mahoney’s Christmas tree forest bring some cookies and cider along in case you get lost. Hundreds of trees up to 15-feet tall are set up in long, orderly rows making it easy for customers to choose a favorite. Owner Paul Mahoney said they are “very picky” about trees, offering only recently cut ones that are not dropping needles. The large nursery brings in about 1,000 conifers, many of them from the Mahoney family’s 1,000-acre tree farm in Nova Scotia, others from Quebec and Vermont. Mahoney’s also offers a Noble Fir grown in Washington State, an interesting departure from the usual Balsam and Fraser Firs. These full Northwestern trees have medium-length needles and a refreshing citrus-like aroma.

Mr. Mahoney offered a little-known tip for keeping a cut tree fresh. He suggested buying your tree early in the season, immerse the trunk in a bucket of water, and store it outdoors in a cool, shaded place until time to bring it in. Once inside, keep watering!

“Getting them in water and keeping them in water makes all the difference,” he said.

Each year Mahoney’s donates a towering conifer to the Town of Oak Bluffs, the centerpiece of the annual tree-lighting festivities. Trees, wreaths, and more will be on display for the nursery’s Holiday Fest this Saturday.

Vineyard Gardens in West Tisbury has a compelling collection of medium-height trees. Freshly cut in Connecticut recently, they are strikingly robust and full, ready to hold all your ornaments.

There are also a number of large live trees which could come inside or adorn the lawn, and a lots of small potted Alberta Spruce. Although at 2 to 3 feet tall they seem like the perfect coffee table adornment, staff member Lauren Crosbie warns that they should be kept indoors only for a day or two, if at all. Even live trees with larger root balls have limited tolerance to inside conditions. Ideally the tree should be kept in a cool location with temperatures around 60 degrees. Trees are dormant in the winter, Ms. Crosbie explains. But extended warm temperatures will “wake them up.”

“You have to put them back to sleep,” she said. When a tree has been inside more than 3 to 5 days it should be slowly acclimated to the cold weather by keeping it in a shed or unheated porch before moving outdoors again.

Although not specializing in Christmas trees, other sources of live trees for those who may want to choose an addition to their landscape include the L and W Tree Farm offering Vineyard-grown trees, and Fragosa Landscaping, both in West Tisbury.

There’s no better thing to do, especially during the holidays, than to lend a hand to help others when buying your tree. Jim’s Package Store in Oak Bluffs is selling an array of attractive trees to benefit Ed BenDavid and his wife, Linda, who is battling cancer. All proceeds from sales of the bargain-priced trees help the BenDavids with medical care costs.

CoCo the Clown is selling wreaths there to help those with autism. And in Vineyard Haven, both SBS and Hinckley’s Lumber have a good selection of trees to benefit the Tisbury Fire Department, always an important cause.