B&B continues family tradition with Christmas trees
“Don’t tell me you have an artificial Christmas tree,” inquired Dave Beebe, with a laugh.
Beebe owns B&B Evergreens, a tree farm that has been in existence in Roxana for about 25 years.
“We planted a row of some sort of Christmas tree — I think they were Douglas firs — for a windbreak. They were just small ones, but when they got big, people driving by wanted to buy them for Christmas trees.
“So the light bulb went on: ‘Hey, let’s plant some more.’ We planted 100. Then we planted 200, and it mushroomed from there. And it just started as a windbreak for the farm.”
Now, B&B grows 2,000 trees of different varieties, ranging from white pine to Douglas fir to Norway spruce.
“We have a little bit of everything,” said Beebe.
B&B Evergreens is open Fridays through Sundays, from 8 a.m. to dusk. Trees range in price from $40 to $45, with an additional charge of $25 to ball and burlap a live tree, with a day’s notice.
“We’re some of the least expensive anywhere in Sussex County. We just want people to have real Christmas trees,” said Beebe. “I read somewhere recently that, people are always worried about the fire hazards of having a real tree in the house, and they actually did some tests. The inside artificial trees are actually more flammable than a properly cared for real tree. A real tree smells great. An artificial tree… blah.”
Beebe said families can swing by the farm and pick out a tree and take it home that day, or tag it to be picked up at a later date.
“The fun part is just picking them out. I remember when I was a little kid. You’d get out and people would get lost. It’s just fun,” he said. “When somebody drives up, the first thing we ask them is, ‘Do you know what you’re looking for?’ Some people have never had a real tree, so they don’t know one variety from another. If they have heavy ornaments, they want a fir or a spruce. If they have a lot of kids’ paper stuff, a white pine is fine. Different trees hold their needles longer.”
Beebe said they also offer suggestions on how to properly care for a live tree, to help ensure it lasts.
“As soon as you cut one, you have to put it in a bucket of water for a couple days. You just have to. It’ll soak up a gallon a day, easy. If you do that for the first couple days, that tree will last a month, two months,” he said.
“That’s the best part about a choose-and-cut Christmas farm, because you know when it was cut. To go to the big commercial operations, they start cutting the first week of November, so those trees have been dead two months by the time Christmas gets here. The first couple of days after you cut them are really important.”
B&B also offers a variety of tree heights, so people can choose small 4-foot trees or get trees 12 feet tall.
“A lot of people buy the little four- or five-year-old ones and have them balled and burlapped, and they plant them in their yard afterward. That’s really popular.”
Beebe said the rush starts the weekend after Thanksgiving but he will be selling Christmas trees even after Christmas.
“We have people right up to Christmas Eve. Some families have a tradition where they put up the tree after the kids are asleep. So when the kids come down Christmas morning, there’s a tree there. We sell five or six every year on Christmas Eve, and it’s already dark,” he said.
“Apparently, in Russia, Christmas is Jan. 6. So the day after Christmas, we’re out here looking at tree stumps and counting things, and here comes some foreign kids from Ocean City, looking to buy a Christmas tree. You know you’re good if you can sell a Christmas tree after Christmas.”
Beebe said that growing the trees themselves takes years.
“The hardest part is it takes eight years to grow a tree, so you’re planning eight years down the road. It’s not like planting tomatoes,” he said with a laugh. “We plant about 500 every spring. If you plant 500, eight years later you might have 400 that will be sellable. The rest of them are hit by mowers, deer beat them up, bugs have eaten them, any number of things.”
Beebe said that caring for the tees is a yearlong process, as well, but the payoff is worth it.
“You have to do soil tests, as different species need different types of soil amendments. You have to shear them at a specific time of year. White pines have to be sheared the last two weeks of June. So, no matter what’s going on, you have to take two weeks, because if you don’t shear them, then they won’t develop new buds. If you shear in September, the next year, you won’t have any new growth.
“It’s 11 months of work for one month of pay. You’re out here in the middle of July, sweating to death, shearing and spraying and doing stuff. But it’s a great business, because everybody is happy. If you can run a business where everybody is happy, then everything is fun.”
B&B is a member of the Delaware Christmas Tree Growers Association, through the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and Beebe said being a member has really helped the farm over the years, with workshops and even newsletters.
“I would suggest, wherever you go and buy a real Christmas tree, that they are a member of that, because of all the support and troubleshooting they do. You know you’ve got a good tree. They come down and inspect the trees and everything.”
Beebe said that being able to be a part of families’ holiday traditions makes all the work worthwhile.
“Once people have picked a tree out for themselves and seen how much fun it is and how long the tree lasts, they always come back. It’s just a great fun job,” he said. “Bring your kids and let them run around.
“Some people, the trees they buy — you look at it and the one next to it is just perfect. But the one they got has holes in it. People are funny. To each his own. You get a little kid, ‘I want my own tree!’ So you go pick some little ugly 2-foot thing and give it to them, and they’re as happy as they can be. It’s a lot of fun, especially seeing the families with little kids running around.”
B&B Evergreens is located at 35968 Zion Church Road, on Route 20 near the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company’s fire hall. For more information, call (302) 436-2030. For more information about the Delaware Christmas Tree Growers Association, visit www.delawarechristmastreegrowersassn.com.