Demand for Christmas trees high amid tight supplies

Thanksgiving dinner is not yet on D.C.-area tables, but it really isn’t too soon to plan for a Christmas tree. Tree growers said live trees will be limited this year and prices will be higher.

Friday is the first big day of Christmas tree sales. While many retailers and shoppers call the day after Thanksgiving Black Friday, the growers call it “Green” or “Evergreen Friday.”

“You come back here on Friday, and it will be a little bit nutty, but it’s a lot of fun. You come walk through here and the trees smell great in the fresh, crisp fall air,” said Ben Butler, farm and finance manager at Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, Maryland.

On rolling hills in the heart of Montgomery County’s agricultural crescent, Butler’s Orchard has 40,000 trees growing on 40 acres.

“We plant about 4,000 to 5,000 a year. It takes anywhere from six to eight years for them to reach salable size. We’ll cut about 2,000 to 2,500 this year, and we fully expect to sell out because the demand is high and there’s not a lot of growers in the region anymore,” Butler said.

“I have to say the big news, sadly, is that there is a tight supply. It starts from the suppliers. It’s hard to get nursery trees, small trees; and even the big commercial growers are spread really thin … your corner gas station and Boy Scout troop, it’s hard for them to get trees these days,” Butler said.

Butler’s has precut trees and reservations are required for cutting your own — both of which are limited this year.



In the Winchester, Virginia, countryside, Clouse’s Pine Hill Farm will open Friday for choose-and-cut trees, with plans to sell trees through Sunday or until supplies last.

“We welcome folks to come out, at that time, to get the best selection,” Ryan Clouse, horticulturalist at Clouse’s Pine Hill Farm, said.

Rows of Christmas trees.
In the Winchester, Virginia, countryside, Clouse’s Pine Hill Farm will open Friday for choose-and-cut trees, with plans to sell trees through Sunday or until supplies last.

Butler's Orchard
On rolling hills in the heart of Montgomery County’s agricultural crescent, Butler’s Orchard has 40,000 trees growing on 40 acres.

Butler’s has precut trees and reservations are required for cutting your own — both of which are limited this year.

“You come back here on Friday, and it will be a little bit nutty but it’s a lot of fun. You come walk through here and the trees smell great in the fresh, crisp fall air,” said Ben Butler, farm and finance manager at Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, Maryland.

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Rows of Christmas trees.
Butler's Orchard

There are several factors contributing to higher Christmas tree prices this year, including higher fuel prices.

“There will be some higher prices. You have the logistics of getting the trees from the farms, many of them are grown three to four hours away, if not more,” Clouse said.

Some people love the holiday so much, they want their live tree earlier and earlier. Clouse said some customers have sought trees in October. But tree growers hold off until November, so trees can retain their needles through the holidays when they’re regularly watered.

“I’m the designated tree-waterer in my family. I check it every day, at least for the first week, that’s when they have the highest water usage,” Clouse said.

“The bigger the tree, the more water it’s going to drink — up to a gallon a day. Make it part of your routine, feeding the dog, or whatever it might be, every day check that water,” Butler said.

There are a smattering of tree farms across Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland.

“Everything we grow and sell here are all top-notch Christmas trees. As far as needle retention, they last well through the holiday season. Fragrance is a big part of what we do. You don’t need that candle that smells like Christmas. You walk through this field, here, it smells like Christmas,” Butler said.

 

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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