Those looking to find the perfect Christmas tree to string with lights and top with a star need look no farther — they can buy local.
B&B Evergreens is a family-run tree farm in Roxana that has been helping families find their perfect trees for a quarter-century.
“We’ve been doing it for 25 years,” said owner David Beebe. “My parents planted a row of pine trees for a windbreak, and once they got to be three or four years old, people wanted to buy them. So we planted a few more, and a few more, and now we’ve got over a thousand.”
B&B Evergreens actually has approximately 2,500 trees and offers varieties including Canaan fir, Douglas fir, white pine, Norway spruce and Leyland cypress, all in a “you choose, we cut” format.
“My favorite is the white pine, because it’s native to the area. It has next to no insect problems. The needles will stay on there for three months. I use a white pine. You throw it in the woods after Christmas, and in March the needles are still green. White pine to me is the perfect tree; the only thing it doesn’t do is hold a lot of ornaments,” explained Beebe.
“The spruces are the ones with stiffest needles. They hold 2-pound ornaments, but you only get about two weeks, maybe three weeks, before your needles start to drop. That’s a tradeoff. Then we have firs, which are a nice compromise. They’ll hold the needles for a month if you take care of the tree, and they hold a fair amount of ornaments.”
The farm’s trees range in size, and any tree sold standing 6 feet or less costs $40, and taller trees sell for $45. Beebe said that most families tag their trees, which he suggests doing early, and pick them up around Dec. 10.
“They can come anytime and stop in and pick a tree out. We flag it with a little piece of fluorescent tape and put their name on it. That tree is theirs, and we’ll keep it for them until they want it,” he explained. “It seems like by every year by Christmas Eve you don’t have a tree over 5 feet left. You pretty much need to get out there early and tag one, that’s for sure.”
For those who wish to take home a live tree to plant following the holiday, B & B requests a day’s notice, suggests trees no taller than 5 feet and charges an extra $25.
“If you dig it and it’s bigger than 5 feet, you tend to lose a lot of your root system. If you dig a tree under 5 feet, it’ll always live. I’ve never had one die,” he said. “If you go to some places and get an 8- or 9-foot tree with a root ball that’s the size of a basketball, those trees are not going to live. You go look at them the next year, they’re all dead.
“If I dig a 5-foot tree, my root ball is about two and a half feet around and weighs 200 pounds. They’re huge. It’s a lot of work. I get 90 percent of the roots, and they always live. I tell people it’s just like any other tree. You dig a big hole, you dig a little bit extra, you fill it in with loose dirt, and you make sure you keep it really good and watered for the first few months.”
Beebe said the farm’s trees are transplants, grown as seedlings at larger tree farms in Pennsylvania.
“We plant transplants, which are usually about a foot to 18 inches tall when they go into the ground. They mostly come from north central Pennsylvania. Indiana, Pa., is known for having huge, huge Christmas tree farms, and we buy our transplants from that area.”
He noted that, although the farm’s selling season is short, the care and maintenance of his crop is a yearlong process.
“They grow about 18 inches a year and you shear them back to about a foot, and that makes new growth come out. They grow basically a foot a year. You have to shear them before first of July every year, which is a lot of work. You have to spray at least once a month.
“You can either plant in the fall or in the spring,” he noted. “I like to plant in the fall because your transplants are already dormant. When you put them in the ground, it gives them time to stabilize before you have hot weather or a drought. That gives them six months in the ground, so that when spring comes, they start growing right away. There’s an awful lot of work that goes into it. You work 11 months for one month’s pay.”
Beebe said that, although the work is hard, it’s worth it just to be a part of a family’s Christmas experience.
“It’s a lot of fun. We had a grandmother with two Dachshunds on leashes and three grandchildren under the age of 6, and, boy, they were running from tree to tree to tree. We had somebody come out yesterday who said they had been coming for 15 years. We had two trees go to Baltimore yesterday. People come down to the beach for the weekend and take a tree home.
“It’s a perfect business, if you didn’t have to wait eight years for your product to grow,” he added. “Everybody is happy. They all love to get out there and run around.”
Beebe said that the farm will sell all kinds of trees to all kinds of customers, from a 25-foot Leyland cyprus that now stands in a fraternity house at Washington College, to a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree gifted to a young boy.
“I gave away one to a kid yesterday. He was about 5 years old, and he didn’t want anything to do with his parents and grandparents, who are all seriously looking for trees. He kept following me around, ‘I want a Charlie Brown tree! I want a Charlie Brown tree!’ We cut off a 2-foot ugly, just like on the cartoon — ugly, ugly, ugly tree — and he was the happiest thing you ever saw.”
B&B Evergreens is a member of the Delaware Christmas Tree Growers Association, made up of 30 growers statewide who are committed to the environment and providing families an enjoyable Christmas tree experience.
“Always buy a live tree,” urged Beebe. “At the roadside stands, they cut them the first week of November every year and ship them out. By Christmas Eve, that’s a two-month-old tree. You buy a tree fresh cut from the field, you won’t lose a needle, and you get to pick exactly what you want.
“Always buy a live tree from a member of the Delaware’s Christmas Tree Growers Association,” he added. “All of those farms are inspected and passed by the Department of Agriculture, all licensed and all fresh-grown in the ground. It’s a good organization. We found we could work more with the different colleges and study different diseases and insects if we joined together into one organization.”
Beebe said that his family loves being a part of other families’ holiday traditions and hopes more people will buy live and local.
“We’ve had people stay there three or four hours, and they pick the perfect tree and lose it looking for another one. It’s great. It’s just a fun business. The good thing is if you don’t sell the tree this year, it’s there next year and it’ll look even better.”
B&B Evergreens is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to dusk and is located at 35698 Zion Church Road, across from the Roxana Fire Hall. For more information, call (302) 228-3884.