Sunday, May 31, 2009

Christmas in May June July!

My hard drive died. And a bunch of other things happened. So...let's pretend it's the end of May, or perhaps the first week of June (when I started to write this post)...

I've just returned from a mountain vacation during which we spent some time meandering along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The views are breathtaking on a clear spring day and endless photo opportunities await – either at the designated "lookout areas" or at any particular point if you dare pull over to the side of the sometimes frighteningly narrow mountain road and flash your hazard lights while you jump out to snap a photo of a perfect double rainbow with a mountain backdrop, which is exactly what we did as we were driving through sun showers one particular afternoon.

After a grand time spent in and around Asheville, NC and then a quick stay in Boone, our journey homeward led us through more beautiful mountain roads where we found ourselves pleasantly surprised in the relatively remote region of Ashe County, North Carolina.

There we were, driving through the mountains, when we came around a corner, and passed a Christmas tree farm. Not too unusual...but then another, and another! Ten! Twenty! Thirty! More! Acres and acres of Christmas trees everywhere! It was as if we'd stumbled upon the "Santa's workshop" of Christmas trees. They were on every hill, around every bend, speckling every field. It was joyous and curious. I had to take some photos and then Google the phenomenon when I returned home.

Turns out there is a North Carolina Christmas Tree Association (NCCTA) and their mission is to "promote 'real' Christmas Trees through marketing and education." Hmm. This is a mission I can probably stand behind, though, while idealistic and charming, it seems vaguely wrong and definitely weird. The Fraser fir is the species that all the tree farmers seem to be growing (so that's what you see in my photos) and I learned that North Carolina has an estimated 50 million Fraser firs Christmas trees througout the state. I'm pretty sure we saw 30 million. There are all sorts of interesting Christmas tree facts and info about the Fraser fir at their site, here, like: North Carolina is 2nd in the nation for Christmas tree harvesting; and at least 10 North Carolina trees have graced the White House since 1966.

Who knew there was such a flourishing tree industry in the mountains of North Carolina? You cut your own at many of the farms, or, there's the option to place a wholesale order for trees - if you happen to have a well-trafficked city sidewalk where you'd like to begin selling the "perfect" tree this December.

Here's a screen shot of a search for Christmas tree farms in North Carolina (We drove straight through that upper left corner of the map):

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pink trees

If you're into PINK trees (which is oh so Dr. Seuss-like), I hope you got a chance to check out Hanami at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this year. Hanami is the "Japanese cultural tradition of viewing and cherishing each moment of the cherry blossom season." I realize this is an after-the-fact post, and if you missed it, all I can say is...go next year!

Any time from early April through early May. PINK. TREES. Petals all over. So pretty, really, and once you realize that you've had enough flowery trees (or, more likely, before you realize it's too late) the flowers have fallen and died and the brilliant green leaves are here to celebrate spring. (A note on Hanami - in early May, there's a big festival at the BBG with long lines, lots of people, weird music and a bunch of events that I missed...along with scores of faux geisha in full attire. Personally, I recommend going to the garden without the extra thousands of people tragically shaking the tree branches to make the petals fall. Go in late April.)

Of course, there are also the wonderful Magnolia trees in early April (top photo). They're incredibly beautiful with huge "thick" flowers that are sticky and gross when they fall off and coat the ground. But always so impressive on the trees. And the magnolia trees aren't ALL pink. Some are yellow, white, or other shades of pretty.

I used to hate HATE pink, I admit. And too much pink still makes me cringe. But on fluffy trees, it's bliss...