In a season that specializes in nostalgia, heading out into the countryside to cut down a Christmas tree is peak nostalgia, a throwback to quieter and calmer times. Last year was full of horrible headlines, but local Christmas tree growers savored much-needed good news as they racked up their best sales ever.

“Covid was really hard on people; they were really depressed,” says Brian Riesett, owner of Dreamland Christmas Tree Farm in Middletown, Md. “And there’s not a whole lot of joy in putting up a plastic tree or going to Walmart to pick out a plastic tree. People wanted a real tree. They wanted to get outside and bring something warm into their life.”

Riesett reckons 2021 will be just as successful. To ensure you can score your perfect tree, go early in the season and call ahead to ensure the farm still has stock. Don’t bring chain saws or axes; you will only be allowed to use the bow saws provided. Dress warmly and wear sensible footwear. And don’t forget you’re there to savor the spirit of the season, so give the gift of compromise when it comes time to making the final decision on which tree to take home.


Clouse’s Pine Hill Farm

What most of America refers to as Black Friday is known as Evergreen Friday at this Winchester farm. That’s because the day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Christmas tree-cutting season. There are eight varieties spread across 20 acres: Scotch pine, white pine, Fraser fir, Canaan fir, concolor fir, Norway spruce, blue spruce, and Douglas fir. Horticulturist Ryan Clouse recommends white pines for those who simply want to drape it with lights and ribbons. “It’s got a long needle, and it’s a very graceful tree,” he says.

No matter which type you choose, you should cut an inch or so off the bottom of the tree’s trunk as soon as you get it home. This removes the layer of sap that will naturally form, preventing the tree from staying hydrated. If the tree gets thirsty, it will begin to rapidly perish, shedding its needles and ruining all the pictures you planned on taking in front of it.

So make sure your tree gets “Water, water, and more water,” says Clouse. “Some trees will need a half a gallon to a gallon of water a day.”

While you’re at the farm, you can take a photo with Santa’s sleigh or go on the reindeer-themed train ride.

When: Open Nov. 26-28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If any trees remain, open Dec. 2-5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: 2696 Green Spring Rd., Winchester. 540-539-0024.

Prices: $25 and up.

Snickers Gap Christmas Tree Farm

More than 37,000 trees grow on just under 40 acres at this Loudoun County farm, which has been in business for over three decades. “We have lots of people coming back with their kids who visited with their parents when they were kids,” co-owner Steven Wolff says.

Most of their trees are Colorado blue spruce — which have stiff needles and an open layout to their branches, making them ideal for large or heavy ornaments — and Douglas fir, a soft needled, highly fragrant variety with a classic pyramid shape.

It’s critical you measure the ceiling height of the room where you’ll be placing the tree beforehand and bring a tape measure. “People underestimate it all the time,” Wolff says. “We remind people they look smaller in the field than they do in your house.”

If you want a bite, hot dogs, warm pretzels, spiced local cider and hot chocolate are available. In the barn, there’s festive merchandise for sale, including homemade wreaths and handmade ornaments.

When: Opens Nov. 26 at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday from noon to 5:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. until dark.

Where: 34350 Williams Gap Rd., Round Hill. 540-554-8323.

Prices: $135 and up.

Evergreen Acres

This Prince William County farm has been in the Christmas tree business since 1991. The 45-acre plot boasts 25,000 Norway spruce and white pine trees. The benefit of the latter is that it’ll last up to three months if well-watered, while the former has firm branches good for hanging sizable ornaments.

There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles at this operation, which is just how owner Jim Gehlsen wants it. “Since this is a real farm, I don’t want to do what the fake farms are doing by having moon bounces and face painting,” he says.

The one significant (and sudsy) exception to this rule is Cedar Run Brewery, which features a rotating cast of a dozen house brews on tap, as well as a pair of ciders and half a dozen wines. Food trucks are on hand Fridays through Sundays.

When: Open Dec. 4-12 from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

Where: 12801 Hazelwood Dr., Nokesville. 703-203-2641.

Prices: $80 (white pine); $120 (Norway spruce).


Linden Hill Christmas Tree Farm

Sarah Stockstill was working as a teacher when a bunch of trees were brought in to celebrate Arbor Day. She took the extras home, planted them and found herself in the Christmas tree business, selling her first ones in 1998. These days, her business has been whittled down to 1,200 trees branched out across a few acres, but she still has a broad selection: white pine, Douglas fir, blue spruce, Canaan fir, Norway spruce and concolor fir, which has a conical shape, a hearty constitution and an alluring lemony smell when its needles or branches are crushed.

When you get your selection back home, don’t put it in water and leave it outside. “The water freezes, and the tree’s not getting anything,” Stockstill says.

Instead, store it somewhere out of the way inside — a cellar or mudroom is usually fine if temperatures don’t fall below 32 degrees there — and water it regularly. To extend its life, Stockstill sells tree preservative for $5 a bottle.

When: Opens Nov. 26. Friday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Where: 4102 Old Crain Hwy., Upper Marlboro. 301-627-3768.

Prices: $65 and up (cash and check only).

Dreamland Christmas Tree Farm

Owner Riesett started his Christmas tree farm in 2004 because he loves the holidays. “I was beyond — let me repeat that: beyond — naive about the amount of work it takes to get a sellable tree,” he says good-naturedly. “I had no idea what I was getting into. But by the time I had spent all that money and planted all the trees, it was too late to get out.”

Now his 10-acre tree farm is packed with 10,000 trees, including concolor fir, blue spruce, Norway spruce, Douglas fir and his best-selling Canaan fir, which has sturdy branches and soft needles.

Inside the 200-year-old barn, visitors can warm up in front of the stone fireplace. Little elves will enjoy the small playground and the collection of pheasants, chickens and turkeys. Hayrides are offered if the fields aren’t too muddy.

When: Opens Nov. 19. Fridays from noon to 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Nov. 26, the farm opens at 10 a.m.

Where: 2700 Sumantown Rd., Middletown. 301-418-5348.

Prices: $65-$75.

Mayne’s Tree Farm

Mehrl Mayne’s family got into the tree business in 1966 because it was easier than growing corn and soybeans, or milking cows on their Frederick County farm. Now they’ve got 40,000 Douglas fir, concolor fir, Canaan fir, white pine and Fraser fir. The latter are adored for their kid- and pet-friendly soft needles, triangular shape and the space between their branches so ornaments really pop. Can’t make up your mind? Don’t ask Mayne which to choose. “I don’t get in the middle of that,” he says. “It’s like how you pick your wife or how you pick your husband. If you like it, that’s what you like.”

Visitors get a hayride out to the field. After you come back with your prize, you can refuel on pulled pork sandwiches, cider doughnuts, pies, hot chocolate and cider. Wreaths, tree stands and other holiday decor is also for sale.

When: Opens Nov. 26. Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: 3420 Buckeystown Pike, Buckeystown. 301-662-4320.

Prices: Various, depending on size and type.