11 Dec 2009

Tightening the Santa’s Belt, or To Tree Locally or Not?

IMG_0135How far from home does the “buy local” criteria extend? Probably not all the way to the Rhode Island Avenue Home Depot. This elf’s decorating coffers being a little spare this year, I made the “Grinchish” decision to nix the tradition of stopping by Eastern Market for tree. Did we save a few bucks? Yes. Was there something missing from the experience? Yes, and it wasn’t the sullen “I could care less” customer service experience to be had at Home Depots everywhere.

Finances be damned, Father Christmas is on his way, so on Sunday night we visited the Home Depot, where the garden center looked like the Safeway produce section on Sunday nights. We late shoppers looked blankly at each other while tumbleweeds blew through the scant variety of firs and spruces left. Pablo and I left with a 6 footer; we paid $32. The taller trees were selling for $45, and the most expensive tree I saw was $60. Those, however, were totally sold out.

In a brief poll, it sounds like this year fewer people are buying trees at the Market, citing expense as the primary concern. A quick visit to the Eastern Market tree guys today made me regret the decision to head the big box as I looked down that alley of trees. That view of the evergreens framing “the shed” is one of my favorite things about the holidays here. To many, just having photos of lugging the tree through the market (preferably not knocking down vendors on your way), is worth the entertainment surcharge. The trees range from $35 for table “toppers” to “$100 and up” for 8 to 10 footers. You do go home with a stand, an enviable position for tree trimmers everywhere. The Market trees are still selling briskly this year, with a huge number shoppers taking advantage of the 24 hour buying opportunity. Apparently (perchance after a few eggnogs for dinner?) buying trees at midnight is a popular post party activity. A late night purchase like that would be a perfect pairing for the “holiday libation” theme tree our friend Nichole “pines” for.

Where did you buy your tree? More on tree sales on Capitol Hill over the jump.
Garden Co-Manager Elizabeth Philbrick says Frager’s tree lot gets hit hard each night between 5:30-7 p.m. Trees are apparently flying out of the place; they sold over 570 of them in a week, and are already halfway through the second order. Frager’s White Pines and Frasier Firs cost from $29.99 to $138.99, with a few of 12 footers selling even higher. Those are serious trees, surely requiring more arboreal responsibility that I can manage. The store does recommend tree buyers invest $3 extra for Prolong, a product (non-harmful to kids or pets) that helps cut plants absorb water.

Philbrick welcomes folks to visit the store and pick up extra branches for decorating. “We’ve got tons of tree swag, and we’d love not to have to throw it away,” she said. Preschoolers will be making art projects out of the trunks that are trimmed down to promote water absorption. She confided that some HD-buyers stopped by and tried (successfully, to my surprise!) to get their trunks trimmed off at the store, having realized they missed that line at the chain store.

With regret in my go-local heart, I walked worriedly down 11th street to my favorite garden shopping spot, Ginkgo Gardens. They’ve got wreaths and garlands by the sleigh-load, and are holding an open house/sale throughout the weekend with big savings on garden accessories and furniture. The trees there start at $25 for 3 foot trees, and multiply the size of your preferred tree by 10 and that’s your price. They’ll deliver your tree, if you’re on the Hill, for $25.

For those that want to have a “tree experience,” one mom touted going to Poolesville to visit Homestead Farm. There you can have the true LL Bean experience: Mom or Dad can wow the kiddos by swinging the axe over their shoulder, do the Paul Bunyan routine, and drag away with a 9-foot Scotch pine or a 6-foot Douglas Fir for $45.  Indeed, financially speaking, elbow grease wins the day.

Oh Tannenbaum, your branches green do delight us. Should we keep our green for greens in the neighborhood? What do you think?

Neighborly tip: Keep an eye on DPW for the tree removal schedule. You want to make sure that bad boy gets chipped into mulch.

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  • We did Fragers, which was not cheap, but had fantastic trees. Our 8 footer is gorgeous and $79 covered the tree, the support finding a good one, the fresh cut, getting it wrapped, and getting it tied to our car for the ride home. For me, that was well worth it and a good opportunity to support one of the Hill’s very best businesses. Bonus, I think you guys already reported that they are going to have Santa there this weekend.

  • HM

    We bought ours at Eastern Market and carried it home in the snow on Saturday. It’s a lovely 8-footer and cost us $80 with an extra wreath thrown in.

  • LincolnPark

    Love my 5-foot White Pine from Frager’s. It’s beautifully shaped, the service was awesome (as always) and it cost as much as a similar tree at Wal-Mart, without the icky box store feeling.

  • C in DC

    I bought a 6′ at Eastern Market for $40 a couple of Fridays ago. My first real tree in 30 years, and well worth the little extra.

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