Drought realities haven’t evaporated the holiday spirit on Apple Hill.
“Conifers are pretty drought-tolerant trees,” noted Dee Kobervig of the El Dorado County Christmas Tree Growers. “A lot of trees we grow up here don’t need that much water.”
That list includes Douglas firs, blue spruces, Scotch pines, Nordmann firs and native incense cedars; they’ve lived through the drought with their green needles intact.
“My silver tips and my red firs are doing really well,” Kobervig added. “The incense cedars are native to our area and very, very drought tolerant. This year, they’re beautiful trees.”
Recent rain came just in time to plump up the crop for prospective buyers.
“Rain freshens up the tree,” said Kobervig, who farms 12 acres at Crystal Creek Tree Farm in Camino. “The last couple of rains really hydrated the trees. They’re in good shape right now and look great. All they need now is just a little bit of cold to set the needles.”
Dozens of Sierra foothill tree farms, mostly small-scale family operations, are preparing for the annual onslaught of visitors looking for a perfect Christmas tree. Most farms opened for business the Friday following Thanksgiving. This holiday traffic could help make up for a very slow fall season.
An hour east of Sacramento, Apple Hill suffered from secondhand smoke during September’s King Fire, which torched about 98,000 acres – mostly in the Eldorado National Forest. That kept a lot of tourists away during peak apple season, according to growers in the area. Not only are a lot of apples (plus pie and cider) still available, but the trees add another seasonal draw. And their appeal extends beyond the day trippers.
“Christmas tree farms are becoming very attractive to people with small acreage,” Kobervig said. “It takes a lot less water to grow Christmas trees than fruit.”
The drought did have an impact, but it may not be felt for several years. During summer’s heat, many growers lost newly planted trees. Ready-to-cut trees are 6 to 10 years old.
“The last two years, we’ve had high mortality on new plants,” Kobervig said. “We can’t put all the water on them that they really need to become established. Some make it, some don’t.”
Many growers now “dry farm” native trees or, if they do irrigate, use technology to maximize their water efficiency, Kobervig said.
“Farmers in our area are working hard to use water wisely,” she said. “Our farms get more crop per drop.”
EL DORADO COUNTY
Apple Country Christmas Trees
White fir, Douglas fir, Scotch pine, sequoia, silver tip, incense cedar. Apples, cider, walnuts, apple pies, picnic tables, easy walking trails. 2721 Mace Road, Camino. Hours: 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday through Dec. 23. (530) 644-2475; www.applecountrychristmastrees.com.
Ardencaple Forest Christmas Tree Farm
Barkley Ranch Tree Farm
White fir. 2836 Barkley Road, Camino. Hours: 9 a.m.-dark Saturday-Sunday. (530) 333-3480.
Boa Vista Orchards
Carson Ridge Evergreens
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, Nordmann, silver fir. Fresh wreaths, candy canes, paved walkway. Cash/check only. 3041 Carson Road, Placerville. Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. (530) 644-1490; www.carsonridgeevergreens.com.
Cedar Ravine Tree Farm
Crystal Creek Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, Scotch pine, blue spruce, noble fir. Wood setting, candy canes, wreaths. Cash/check only. 2019 Cable Road, Camino. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-dusk daily through Dec. 24. (530) 644-4647; www.caminotrees.com.
Davis Christmas Tree Farm
Deer Park Ranch Christmas Trees
Deutsch’s Union Mine Pines
Figor Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, sequoia. 3160 Pleasant Valley Road, Placerville. Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. (530) 621-1770.
Harris Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, cedar, noble fir, pine. Natural wood picnic area, apples, cider, apple pies, jam, wreaths. 2640 Blair Road, Pollock Pines. Hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. (530) 644-2194; www.harristreefarm.com.
Hidden Canyon Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, sequoia, cedar. Firewood. 3500 Newton Road, Placerville. Hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. (530) 622-6760.
High Sierra Iris and Wedding Gardens
Hillside Tree Farm
Indian Rock Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, cedar, pine. Picnicking, wreaths, gift shop, catch and release fly fishing. 3800 N. Canyon Road, Camino. Hours: 8:30 a.m.-dusk daily. (530) 622-4087; www.indianrocktreefarm.com.
Jim and Mary’s Tree Farm
Kenny, Harry and Heidi’s Tree Farm
Douglas fir, white fir, Colorado blue spruce. Kids life-size toy wooden train, picnic area, pond, free candy canes, coffee, hot chocolate. 5987 Happy Trails Lane, Garden Valley. Hours: 9 a.m.-dusk weekends. (530) 333-4936; email@example.com.
Levi’s Tree Farm
McGee’s Christmas Tree Farm
Silver tip, noble fir, Douglas fir, white fir, Canaan, swift silver. Free greenery, candy canes, fresh precut trees and wreaths. 3131 Carson Road, Placerville. Hours: 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-dusk Saturday-Sunday. (530) 644-4731; www.mcgeechristmastreefarm.com.
O’Hallorans Apple Trail Ranch
Omo Ranch Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, red fir and assorted varieties. Barbecue and picnic sites. 7975 Slug Gulch Road, Omo Ranch. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. (530) 620-2002.
Poverty Hill Tree Farm
Prenderosa Tree Farm
Douglas fir, white fir, Scotch pine, spruce, cedar, sequoia; precut Oregon noble, Nordmann fir, grand fir. Wreaths and decorations also available. 5301 Highway 49, El Dorado. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. (530) 626-1951; www.prenderosa.com.
Roberts Tree Farms
Sierra Magnifica Christmas Tree Farm
Silver tip, noble fir, white fir, Douglas fir, swift silver. 2500 Hassler Road, Placerville. Hours: 9 a.m.-dusk Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. (530) 622-0203; www.sierramagnificatrees.com.
Silver Forest Tree Farm
White fir, red fir, Douglas fir, Scotch pine. 4041 Rontree Lane, Somerset. Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. (530) 620-6261.
Silver tip, white fir, noble fir. 3099 N. Canyon Road, Camino. Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. (530) 621-2379.
Smarts Christmas Tree Farm
Sundance Tree Farm
Twin Pines Christmas Tree Farm
Douglas fir, sequoia, white fir, blue spruce, French pine. Mistletoe, holly, pine cones, cuttings, netting also available. 5150 Twin Pines Loop, Georgetown. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. (530) 333-4226; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Douglas fir, Scotch pine, precut silver tip. Free cider and popcorn available. 18251 Retrac Way, Grass Valley. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. (530) 263-2875.
Cole’s Christmas Tree Farm
Douglas fir and Sierra redwood. 6540 Highway 193, Newcastle. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. (916) 663-2684.
Little Bear Tree Farm
Poppy Lane Christmas Farm
Silver tip, white fir, Douglas fir, noble fir, Nordmann fir, incense cedar. Container trees and Christmas decorations also available. 12110 Poppy Lane, Auburn. Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. (530) 906-6988; www.poppylanechristmasfarm.com.
Snowy Peaks Tree Farm
White fir, silver tip, Douglas fir. Wagon rides, tree swing, bonfire, wreaths and complimentary candy canes and hot chocolate. 30100 Foresthill Road, Foresthill. Hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 18. (530) 367-3766; www.snowypeaksfarm.com.
Starlight View Christmas Tree Farm
Douglas fir, Sierra redwood, Scotch pine. 2209 Shirland Tract Road, Auburn. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Monday. (530) 885-0489.
Tuma’s Foothill Trees
Scotch pine, incense cedar, redwood, Douglas fir, Arizona cypress. 3845 Buffalo Road, Auburn. Hours: Dawn to dusk daily. (530) 889-1991.
Monterey pine, Leyland cypress, Monterey cypress, Arizona cypress, golden cedar, Sierra redwood, Aleppo pine, Scotch pine, bishop pine. Hay rides and wreaths also available. 8430 Dillard Road, Wilton. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. (916) 687-8354; www.billysfarm.com.