Planting seeds of Christmas

Published 12:24 am Thursday, December 4, 2008

Growing Christmas trees has been a part of Willie Cottle’s life for more than 20 years, but he still treasures the time when families come to pick out their home’s holiday centerpiece.

“I like to see the kids running around having a big time picking a tree out,” he said. “I get amazed at times. If a man and woman come by themselves, then they will most likely do a little arguing. If there are kids along, then they have an input in picking the tree out. I like to see that.”

Cottle said that each season brings shoppers who search for the ever elusive “perfect” Christmas tree.

“I have seen people walk around these fields to look at trees for an hour and a half in freezing weather,” he said. “They just continually search to find the perfect tree. I tell them to start with that they will not find it, but they are willing to look. There is just no perfect tree. Any tree farm you can find something wrong with every tree there if you have mind to look long enough.”

The Cottle Christmas Tree Farm has 20 acres of trees in various stages of growth divided between two species — the Virginia Pine, sold for $20 each, and the Leeland Cyprus, sold for $30 each.

“The Leeland Cyprus will not shed when you bring it into the house and set it up,” Cottle said. “The Virginia Pine will drop something every day from the day you bring it into the house until you take it out.”

Cottle explained that the Virginia Pine’s propensity to shed cannot be cured with water, but both trees should receive adequate supplies of water once placed in the home. Fresh cut natural Christmas trees consume, on average, one gallon of water every two days.

Cottle said a good year of business would see 500 to 1,000 trees sold, but he is not sure how things will turn out this season.

“This coming weekend is supposedly the biggest time for selling,” he said. “The weather makes it to where you cannot count on it until it happens. You have to consider many different things including weather and the economy. Numerous things can happen to change the outcome in the tree business.”

According to Cottle, a Christmas tree can be raised to the proper height, five to six feet tall, in about five years if the tree is properly sheared, a practice he compares to an art form.

“I use a special blade to shear these trees and not just anyone can do the job,” he said. “You have to make sure you trim the tree evenly and leave a small stump at the bottom. A tree can be ruined if not sheared properly.”

Cottle said natural trees have a distinct advantage over artificial trees because they are relatively hassle free in nature.

“The biggest thing is that your artificial tree is boxed up, put up and you have to bring it back out the next year,” he said. “It is just a big hassle. My wife and I could never find the perfect place to store a tree. Our family has used artificial trees, but we have not used one since we have been cutting trees.”

Cottle Christmas Tree Farm is located at the corner of Cottle Creek Road and Dunns Bridge Road in the Straughn community. The farm is open seven days a week and patrons are invited to stop by anytime to pick out a tree for their home.

Willie can be reached at (334) 804-6748 or customers can contact his wife, Rachel, at (334) 804-9970 for more information.