The early bird gets the tree


This year, there’s a run on almost everything, including Christmas trees. That was what brought Chestnut Hill resident Gail Cataldi to Laurel Hill Gardens on the first Monday following Thanksgiving.

“I’m afraid there will be a shortage,” said Cataldi, who was looking for a seven-footer.

Her concerns were echoed by Laurel Hill Gardens manager Susan Dannenberg. When asked if they will be selling trees straight through to Christmas Eve, she said, “We sell them until we run out. But that will happen before Christmas.”

For more than 40 years, Laurel Hill Gardens, 8125 Germantown Ave., has been a go-to place, not just for Christmas trees, but also tree stands and all the other decorations needed to draw wide-eyed wonder from children. That includes a sparkling tree topper, LED lights, bows and mistletoe. (LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy than traditional lights and last 25 times longer.)

“All our trees are Fraser firs from North Carolina,” said Dannenberg, who advises keeping them well watered and using a preservative. If you buy them fresh, Fraser firs are among the longest lasting Christmas trees. If you water them regularly, they will last four to six weeks.

Trees at Laurel Hill Gardens come in six sizes, from five to 12 feet high. They offer delivery and decoration services for indoors and outdoors, an excellent option if you are wary of climbing ladders or unraveling yards of electric wiring. They also have a large assortment of Christmas wreaths.

Tom and Tamar Jacobson of Mt. Airy selected a wreath early this year. “I’m Jewish and Tom is Christian so we compromised and have a wreath instead of a tree,” Tamar said.

Tree tips

How do you know if it’s fresh? Grasp a branch to test for strength and freshness. A fresh tree should feel supple with only a few green needles coming loose when pulled.

Make sure your tree is not too close to a heat source, like a radiator or a window, since heat and sun tend to dry trees out more quickly. Always turn off your tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed.

If babies or toddlers will be in the house, make sure there are no small decorations or tinsel within their reach. Extension cords and light cords also should be beyond the grasp of tiny hands. Some holiday plants such as real mistletoe, live poinsettias and holly berries are toxic if swallowed, according to the Children's Health and Safety Association

Christmas trees and dogs are a bad combo. Tree water can poison your pet, and fir tree oil will cause dogs to vomit, so cover the base of the tree stand with tin foil to avoid it turning into a drinking fountain. Chewing on an electric light cord also can lead to disaster. Avoid using glass ornaments if you don’t want to pay an astronomical vet bill for internal bleeding. And you might want to forego tinsel. Another solution? Keep Fido in a crate or in a different part of your home.

Cats present even more problems. By nature, they are climbers. Your Christmas tree is their Mt. Everest! According to, whether your tree is artificial or real, you need to firmly secure it. Besides a stand, consider placing eye bolts in the wall and using clear fishing line to hold it in place. Keep ornaments high and avoid anything that dangles. Make sure the stand is covered so kitty doesn’t drink from it.

Environmental concerns

If anyone in your family is concerned about the environmental impact of Christmas trees, there is good news. A real tree spends around eight years growing in the field before it is harvested. So instead of being manufactured like an artificial tree, a real tree converts CO2 into oxygen, provides a habitat for wildlife, and keeps large tracts of space across North America open and green. Unlike artificial alternatives, when you are done with a real tree, it is 100% recyclable and 100% biodegradable.

When you choose a real tree, you put money back into the local economy. It supports your retailer and their employees, as well as the growers who provide their trees.


In ancient times, Romans marked the winter solstice with a feast called Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. They decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.  Over the centuries, this tradition was appropriated by Christians.

Although Christmas trees were common in Germany by the 16th century, as late as the 1840s they were viewed as pagan symbols by most Americans. Puritans believed that any celebration of Christmas outside of a church service was a desecration. In Massachusetts, people were fined for hanging decorations. By the 1890s, thanks to an influx of Irish and German immigrants, America embraced the tradition.

If you think your tree is a ceiling scraper, consider this. The 2021 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is an 85-year-old Norway spruce that stands 79 feet tall. It is decorated with more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights and is topped by a three dimensional Swarovski star, which is covered in three million crystals and weighs 900 pounds.

More than trees

Laurel Hill Gardens also stocks a large assortment of old-time toys, the kind that will take you back to your childhood and make a big hit with the grandkids. Sure, kids know their way around Nintendo, but have they ever played jacks, pickup sticks, held a Slinky or drawn on a Magic Slate? These vintage toys make fun stocking stuffers.

What else awaits you at Laurel Hill Gardens? Artisanal pickles!