Is that a fake fir?
Christmas trees: The real deal — or not
ROBERT CONRADI THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Phil Walsh of Lodi Farms, in Ann Arbor, secures a fir tree to a buyer’s car roof.
Every year, families across the country trudge through the controversy. Doors are slammed and tears are shed. Parents wonder where they went wrong, and household pets scurry under the bed.
This isn’t body piercings. It’s not drugs. It’s not even your sister bringing home a man named Snake and declaring her undying love for him to your parents.
It’s Christmas trees: Real or artificial.
“I’m more environmentally minded, you know? With real trees, we’re killing ourselves,” said Badu Hane, 30, of Ann Arbor, a physical therapy assistant major at Washtenaw Community College. “You use it for a while and it looks nice, but then you just throw it away. I’d rather get a plastic one.”
Hane doesn’t get a tree himself, but he does help his neighbor put hers up. She uses an artificial tree.
All this is Christmas music to Renay Cook’s ears. Cook is the owner of My Favorite Plant Company in Ypsilanti. She sells all sorts of artificial plants, and sells different sizes of artificial trees every year.
“The quality of the silk trees — that’s what they call the artificial trees now — has come so far in a relatively short amount of time,” said Cook. “Artificial trees don’t shed, you don’t have to worry about water, there’s less chance of fire and not cutting down a tree every year would be a pro for me, anyway.”
Cook uses an artificial tree herself, the same one that she bought 10 years ago. It takes her about 15 minutes to put the whole thing together, and in the end, she’s left with a 100-pound, 9-foot silk tree.
Cook cautioned silk tree enthusiasts to check out their trees to make sure that they’re fire retardant.
While it isn’t required, a fire-retardant tree would be less likely to start a fire during the holidays. And though artificial trees don’t run the risk of becoming dehydrated, they are draped in hot, electrical lights.
“Fires in the holiday season happen because of things like the (real) trees aren’t hydrated and the fire places that people don’t keep clean,” said Reka Farrackand, the City of Ann Arbor Fire Inspector. “It could also be electrical — they’re not checking their lights, and if there’s a fray in the wires, that could start a fire.”
Farrackand added that while Christmas trees are often blamed for holiday fires, it’s actually their spreading power that makes them dangerous. When the trees aren’t kept hydrated well enough, they become dry and brittle — the perfect conditions for a fire to start.
Of course, as long as real Christmas tree enthusiasts water their trees, the risk of fire stays relatively low. That’s good news for Phil Walsh, a salesperson for Lodi Farms Limited in Ann Arbor.
“We are running low on trees right now! It’s cold and it’s snowy, and that says Christmas to people,” said Walsh.
Lodi Farms doesn’t actually grow its own trees, bringing them in from Mathisen Tree Farms, LLC in Greenville. But Walsh insists that getting a real tree isn’t as environmentally harmful as some make it out to be.
“These are farms. It’s a crop just like wheat or corn. It just takes longer to mature,” he said.
Picking out the tree is something families do together, said Walsh. He knows that a lot of people come to Lodi Farms just because they see getting a real tree as the only way to keep things traditional.
“A lot of our customers have been with us for years,” he said. “We get to see the kids grown up.
“A lot of the teenagers pretend like they’re too cool for it,” laughed Walsh, “until it’s time to pick out the tree!”