IDAHO FALLS — If you haven’t gotten your fresh-cut Christmas tree this year, it’s not too late. East Idaho has several options, including ready-to-take-home trees at retail centers, tree farms where you can pick one to have cut for you, and a tree out in the forest you can cut yourself.
There used to be more “pop up” tree lots around Idaho Falls, according to Jon Russell, manager at Eagle Rock Nursery. But likely extreme cold snaps — which can harm fresh-cut trees stored outdoors — and shipping costs played a factor in stopping those businesses.
“You can’t really order just 50 trees and have it be worth it,” he said.
According to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, Oregon is by far the biggest supplier of Christmas trees to the nation this year at 5.2 million; Washington state is fifth at 1.5 million. The climate in those states are ideal to producing the most popular Christmas trees such noble fir and other fir varieties.
Eagle Rock Nursery gets its trees shipped from Oregon. When the trees arrive, they go into Eagle Rock’s large greenhouse, which keeps the trees safe from the cold. Most customers look for 6- to 8-foot trees, explained Russell, though they also have quite a few customers who want 14-foot trees.
Even with so many artificial tree options available, some people just can’t get through Christmas without the smell and experience of having a real tree in their home.
“A lot of our customers have both a fresh and artificial,” Russell added.
While noble firs don’t like Eastern Idaho growing conditions, there are other Christmas tree varieties that grow closer to home. Haroldsen Gardens located just north of Idaho Falls grows spruce trees as part of its fresh-cut Christmas tree farm.
“They’re more prickly than fir, but they hold well,” said Eric Haroldsen.
Haroldsen started growing Christmas trees 25 years ago as an offset to their summer raspberry and asparagus business. It takes about 15 years to grow the spruces tall enough when growing from seedlings. However, when Haroldsen cuts a tree for someone, he leaves the lower branches and trunk, which allows the tree to regenerate and grow tall enough to be cut again in seven years.
“We’re on our third cutting of trees now,” he added.
Haroldsen Gardens currently have about 2,000 Christmas trees at all stages of growth.
If you’re looking for a little bit more adventure with your fresh-cut Christmas tree, you can always grab your saw and head into the forest to cut your own. But first, make sure to stop by a designated location to get a permit first. When you get a permit, you will also be given a map that shows where you are allowed to cut your tree. Alpine fir is a popular choice for local forest-going Christmas tree cutters.
Christmas tree permits are available at the BLM, forest service offices, Idaho Falls Visitor’s Center, Palisades Ranger District, Cal Ranch and Sportsman’s Warehouse. Each forest area has a designated number of permits—Montpellier is already out, since many come up from Utah to cut trees there. But more permits are available in other areas close to east Idaho.