The Christmas season starts in early November. Tips, the ends of balsam tree branches, are sustainably harvested from trees we manage specifically to supply our Christmas wreaths. Overnight temperatures dropped into the 20's in mid October. In order for the waxy coating to form on balsam and other softwood needles, the temperature must be below freezing for three consecutive nights. We're usually watching weather forecasts and hoping for "soon" but this year was an exception. It happened early and for that we're grateful. Temps are unseasonably warm, the mid 50's both night and day this week.
Tips are harvested by snapping them from the branch at the proper point. Chosing the correct spot causes the tree to continue to branch out, adding new tips. We harvest no more than 30% of the usable tips per tree, and we harvest from trees bi-annually. Trees are topped off at 20' to force growth into braches. The top and bottom third of the trees aren't harvestable. The top branches are not large enough and are usually too round. The bottom third of the branches are too flat and sparse. We plan to harvest from each tree for approximately 20 years. At the end of the 20th year the trees will be cut down, leaving only the bottom branches to ring the tree. Of those branches, one will become the lead branch. The rest will be cut. The new lead branch will grow into tree shape and the process starts for one more cycle.
Wreath season is one of our favorite times of year. While the greens growing in greenhouses are slowing, greens going into Christmas wreaths is picking up speed.