Christmas Tree-onomics

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas trees for sale in Manhattan Christmas trees for sale in Manhattan (Andrew F. Kazmierski /

We've been conducting a (very) informal poll about what WNYC listeners are paying for their Christmas trees this year. John Roundcity, Foreman at SoHo Trees (stationed around the corner from WNYC headquarters), and Galen Parke, tree farmer and seller for Adam Parke Trees, break down the economics of the pop-up Christmas tree industry.

Looking for the perfect Christmas tree? Here are some tips from our guests on how to evaluate your potential purchase:

  • Smell?  The smell of any tree depends on how recently it was cut, how it was stored, etc. Galen says the most aromatic variety is the balsam fir, while John says the Douglas fir and grand fir smell like grapefruit. Every tree is unique! 
  • Freshness?  Look for "late fresh cut" trees - the leaves should appear fresh and their smell will be pungent. Another give-away for recently cut trees is their weight; they should still be heavy with water or sap. 
  • Live vs. cut?  Some farms choose to partially cut their trees which allows the stump to regrow much faster than planting a new tree. Others sell trees complete with their roots. This one's entirely up to your preference.
  • Price?  It varies greatly depending on neighborhood. Don't be afraid to haggle! Our guests say they're willing to work with people to find the best tree for their budget. One caller claims that $10/foot is the standard.

Already bought a tree? Contribute to our informal tree map and help us get a sense of block-to-block differences.


Galen Parke and John Roundcity

Comments [21]

Margaret from UWS Manhattan

(caller Rachel, "Why OK to cut?") I still say stop cutting basically adult trees,and use all really small ones - as Earth hits crisis point re. the legs of its environmental function collapsing under it. We can have one in each room of the house, decorated in different styles,and use less growing area, repeatedly and sooner, and cut down no adult trees. (Maybe that messes with the idea of the tree representing 'the One, the Branch'- or is that not the point anyway?) For the lesser amount of mulch made available, we should organize dispensing all Fall leaves possible being collected in neighborhoods, for mulching the street trees. I've been considering a way to truck collected leaves from street corners. We should design a way to collect all those dead leaves that hang on all winter these days, because of hormonal disease from pollution. By fifty years from now, it probably will be illegal, because there's not enough oxygen production and CO2 absorption...

Dec. 11 2013 03:50 PM

Chelsea Home Depot, is where I bought my
5' artificial Christmas Tree,
with clear lights for $45.00.

I love it.
Real trees are a fire hazard and
I'm afraid to have that log of wood
in my apartment.

Dec. 11 2013 01:28 PM

Of course the tree hugger lady had to mention she (reluctantly) buys her tree next to the Park Slope Co-op. How predictable.

Dec. 11 2013 11:38 AM
Linda from Jersey Shore

So in Asbury Park NJ, Porta Restaurant.. you get 2 pizza's a pitcher of beer and a 5 ft tree for $60.00, an 8ft tree for $75. all the trees are pretty good,nice shape, not balsam unfortunately and are on display at Prta Natinal Park (the outside part of Porta. it's a good deal and a nice way to buy a tree if you have a grown family (like me) or have no kids

Dec. 11 2013 11:35 AM
Susan from Upper West Side

Last year, I found a tree that was much cheaper in Harlem l than on the Upper West Side. Unfortunately I bought it on impulse and then realized I would have to drag it down to the Upper West Side on the subway. I also had my work bag with me which is a rollaboard with supplies that weighs about 35 pounds. The biggest challenge was getting the tree through the turnsyles. Fortunately, it was not rush hour.

In my experience, prices do drop on Christmas Eve and that is when I used to buy them. But now I kind of like having them sooner than Christmas Eve so I pay a little more.

I like the Montreal tree sellers. Some of them are totally adorable.

Dec. 11 2013 11:35 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

Before we bought from Adam we often drove to Connecticut where my uncle (the same one with the house in Barton) had another home and a Christmas tree farm where we would go out and cut our own.

Years later one of my law school professors launched into an amusing 20 minute lecture on why owning a Christmas tree farm might be a brilliant business decision due to a series of provisions in the tax code. At that point I realized my uncle, former editor in chief of Fortune Magazine, may have been rather wily in his decisions.

Years when we didn't make the trip to Connecticut to cut our own tree my father and I would often go on Christmas Eve, "A Christmas Story" fashion, under the riverside highway and buy one of the last large trees left (we had a tall ceiling) at a low price as the sellers were packing up.

Dec. 11 2013 11:35 AM

Could your guest explain why it's important to buy an organic tree?

Dec. 11 2013 11:27 AM
Peg from Willseyville NY

To Rachael the tree hugger: Trees have to be thinned just like weeds - if they grow too thick , they will kill each other - then be potential for forest fires.

Trees in NYC from OREGON????????????????

Dec. 11 2013 11:26 AM
Capper from NYC

Fresh cut trees last longer. If you run your hand across the branches and a lot of needles fall off, I would be concerned.

Can your guests talk about variations of long needle pines?

We seemed to get a nice "white pine"?

Dec. 11 2013 11:25 AM
Katie from Greenpoint

My roommate and I went to pick up a small tree for our holiday party next week. We live in Greenpoint and first stopped at a stand on Henry Street and Nassau across from McGlormick park they were charging $12 a foot for one kind, $14 for another, then a "pesticide free" grown tree for $15 a foot!! We were surprised by how much they were asking!! and went somewhere else.

Dec. 11 2013 11:24 AM
Tony from Canarsie

No room for a tree in our apartment, but lots of blinking multi-colored lights around the windows.

Btw, is there any truth to the rumor that the Port Authority is selling Xmas trees on a closed lane of the George Washington Bridge?

Dec. 11 2013 11:22 AM

What becomes of cut, unsold trees?

Dec. 11 2013 11:22 AM
Miscellaneous from NYC

If you want a tree that smells really nice, buy a live one. I work at a nursery and we sell only live plants, including Christmas trees that are in pots, in soil. If you take good care of them, you can keep them alive all year and use them again next year. :-)

Dec. 11 2013 11:21 AM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

We buy our trees from Adam Park whose representative is one of your guests. As we were buying our first tree from Adam years ago we found out that he was from Northern Vermont, near Barton where my uncle once had a house, an old converted barn. In fact, my cousin had hired him to help empty out the house when it was sold. So I guess we buy based on relationship.

We usually get our picture taken with Adam each year before we take the tree home and get an update on his family, often in evidence helping to sell the trees.

Dec. 11 2013 11:19 AM
Nick from UWS

God, what an absurd stupid business, killing untold thousands of trees for the momentary vanity of idiotic human beings. The Christmas business is exactly opposite the ideology of the Christ that it purports to support.

Dec. 11 2013 11:19 AM
GMary from Bronx

As Jews, we don't have a tree, but for several years we have driven a couple of friends to Connecticut to the Audubon H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Preserve and Christmas Tree Farm ( 203-623-0646). There you can pick the tree while it's still growing, cut it down (with or without help), load it, and transport it back to the city. Not a financial savings, but so fragrant...such a great outdoors day trip...and support to the Audubon Society.
For other cut-your-own sites, see

Dec. 11 2013 11:19 AM

A legendary NYC-based magazine has just named the biggest name in Christianity besides you know who as "Person of the Year."

Has your guest considered the odds of a run on trees? Or a "Hot Pope" premium?

Dec. 11 2013 11:18 AM
Lesa from Westchester in the middle of nowhere

I stopped buying after the price hit $100- went artificial and I do not regret it for a moment.

I supported a tree farm in New Hampshire who sent it via FEDEX but I had to balk at paying $35 for shipping on top of the tree cost.

Dec. 11 2013 11:16 AM
Bob from Huntington

You've spent big bucks on your Christmas Tree, so just don't toss it out in the cold this year!

Give it a pleasant holiday passing:

Dec. 11 2013 11:14 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Where do these vendors shower?

Do they have "crackhead" prices Christmas Day, to get rid of unsold trees?

Dec. 11 2013 11:10 AM
Peg from Willseyville, NY

Meanwhile, back in the boonies of our great Empire State, we go up into our woods and get our trees for free. So glad to be connected to my urban friends by WNYC! Happy Holidays to all.

Dec. 11 2013 10:54 AM

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