After supplies ran out last year, the Christmas tree picture looks considerably brighter in the Rim country this holiday season.
Both Plant Fair Nursery and Wal-Mart Supercenter report an adequate supply on hand, and are anticipating few problems getting additional shipments. Last season, a fungus that attacked Noble firs in the Pacific Northwest reduced the supply of trees in the Rim country to a trickle.
While Plant Fair owner Glen McCombs had expected the problem with diseased trees to continue "another two, three, or even four years," he has so far seen no indication that the fungus is present in the trees he has received.
Last year many of the Noble firs Plant Fair did get were obviously ailing.
"Their inside branches were all brown and they were kind of ugly," he said. "They tried to clean them up as best they could. Infested fields are sprayed with lime sulphur and replanted, but it takes a few years for those fields to produce trees large enough to harvest."
"The supply problem isn't gone, but it is easing," McCombs said. "The numbers are still not up where we'd like them to be, but we do have some Douglas, some Nobles and some Grand firs."
Wal-Mart is sticking to Douglas and Noble firs this season, Garden Department Manager Bob James said.
"We have plenty right now, and we are going to get at least one more shipment in this season," James said. "I'm also going to try to get an extra shipment."
A third option for Rim country tree shoppers this year is Susie's Everfresh Christmas Trees, which will open Dec. 1 in the parking lot at Dakota Lee's Mountain Home Furnishings, 1101 S. Beeline. Owner Susie Johnson did not have a tree lot last year because she was moving.
Cut Christmas tree shoppers can expect to pay about the same as last year, although Noble firs, reflecting the supply issue, will cost "just a bit more," according to McCombs.
At the low end, Plant Fair is selling five- to seven-foot Douglas firs for $19.99. At the high end, a nine to 10-foot Noble fir will set you back $116.99.
Nobles are worth the extra cost, McCombs said.
"They make the very best Christmas tree," he said. "They last the longest. That's why when it got the disease, everybody was so distraught. It's kind of the premium Christmas tree."
Wal-Mart's prices range from $20 to $60.
Johnson will have some 4- to 5-foot Douglas firs for $15, with "monster" Noble firs as high as $120. "The Nobles are just beautiful this year," she said.
A rule of thumb for cut tree buyers in the Rim country is to buy as early as possible.
"It has always been true up here that you buy your tree early or you risk not having much selection," Linda McCombs, Plant Fair co-owner, said.
"The first two weeks is the best time to buy," Glen said. "That's when we have the biggest, freshest trees."