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Christmas Tree Farms

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December 3, 2013
While growing up in Michigan, one of my favorite Christmas memories was going out to the farm to pick out the tree to bring home. Down here in Mississippi, many families have a similar tradition. Today I'm at Thomley's Christmas Tree Farm in Hattiesburg getting ready for the holiday season. The Thomley family has been growing Christmas trees since 1967. There are three varieties of trees being grown here that have adapted to our southern growing conditions. Leyland Cypress is one of the most popular Christmas trees grown in the south. The foliage of the Leyland cypress varies but generally is arranged in irregularly flat planes with a dark green to gray coloration. Virginia pine has been a workhorse for southern Christmas tree growers for many years. The short needles are arranged in pairs, and add interest with their twisted structure. Consistent pruning results in tight branching. Carolina Sapphire is an improved selection of Arizona cypress. The gray-green leaves are plentiful and arranged close to the stems and appear scale-like. This tree is aromatic with a scent of combined lemon and mint. A Christmas tree farm is no different than any other farm. Each year the Thomley's plant at least a thousand transplants for future years. As these trees grow, careful pruning transforms the trees into the familiar pyramidal Christmas tree shape. It usually takes five years of shaping and pruning to turn a scrawny transplant into a glorious family Christmas tree. You too can create wonderful family memories of that annual trip to cut your own Christmas tree. I'm horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.

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