December 5, 2019

Christmas and the holiday season are my absolute favorite time of year. I am not sure if it’s the beloved childhood memories, the sweet and often sappy holiday movies, the warmth that hot chocolate brings, or the overall spirit and magic of the season, but during those few weeks every year, I often wish that Christmas would last forever. One of those favorite memories is the journey to f ind the perfect tree—not too tall, not too wide, with the perfect triangular shape and branches made for ornaments collected throughout the years. As a child, my family and I would make the annual trek to a tree farm to find the perfect Christmas tree. Running through rows and rows of towering magical trees, it became a sweet holiday tradition that my sister and I looked forward to every year. And back then, we used to actually dig up our tree, complete with a giant root ball, so we could plant our living, breathing Christmas memory in the yard—watching it grow year after year and reminding us of Christmas pasts.

In a time when tree lots are popping up on every corner, where trees wrapped in netting are lined up outside every grocery store, and where artificial pre-lit phonies can be found anywhere from local hardware stores to online discount stores, the thought of herding the family and venturing out to cut down your own Christmas tree might seem old fashioned...with way too much effort involved. But for some families, including my own, it’s a magical holiday tradition that lives on. (Besides, who wants to cut open a wrapped tree to find a gaping bare spot? Or a tree in a box only to find that some of the lights aren’t working? No, thanks.)

And lucky for us, that tradition lives on in the heart of South Carolina. While you may not associate tree farms with the Lowcountry, A&A Christmas Trees, a second-generation family-owned farm located in Okatie, South Carolina, has been providing Christmas trees, with a side of holiday magic, for more than 40 years.

But just like Christmas does every December 26, it almost vanished.

Originally started by Jerry and Dianne Youngblood in 1976, A&A Christmas Trees—named for the Youngblood’s two daughters, Anne and Ashley—was at risk of fading away just a few short years ago. Jerry had devoted his life to his tree farm but was getting weary. Unsure of who would take over the operation, he slowly began to phase out the tree farm, selling off more and more trees each year until the tree farm would be no more. Knowing how important the tree farm was to her father, plus the decades of cherished family memories that the tree farm created for the local community, Anne, Jerry’s daughter, and her husband, Daniel, took over the operation of the tree farm three years ago, ensuring that many of the children who once roamed the fields looking for a tree could now return with their own children.

Now, Anne and Daniel, along with their three daughters, continue to make A&A Christmas Trees a family affair. Today, they grow more than 5,000 trees on roughly 8 acres, and each tree has been lovingly planted, cultivated, and cared for by Daniel and his family. Referring to them like his “children,” Daniel takes pride in his trees, and it shows. Upon visiting the farm, I learned firsthand what it takes to cultivate a tree during its 9–10-year cycle, ensuring that it grows into the perfect Christmas tree.

And it takes a lot. Over the course of several years, Daniel wears a variety of hats, carefully tending to each of his 5,000+ trees. He is a forester: planting and watering each tree by hand. He is a meteorologist: watching the weather and trying to predict the best course of action. He is a tree surgeon: inspecting each tree and monitoring it closely for disease. He is a gardener: pruning each tree to give it its traditional shape.

This process begins each year in January and February when Daniel plants nearly 2,000 tiny saplings, including 1,000 white pine and 800 Murray Cypress, by hand. Each of these baby trees is planted next to the stump of a previously cut adult tree. Not only does this call attention to the stump for future tree searches (careful!), but it also helps the sapling by being situated next to an already established root system with water still readily available. Pruning typically begins in June when he cuts the tree at the top—to help it grow faster—followed by some trimming and shaping to the sides in October.

Upon visiting the farm, you’ll find trees of varying sizes. Ranging up to nearly 15 feet in height, each tree will be individually priced and measured (Hint: It’s bigger than it seems!), so there will be no confusion as you are wandering around the enchanting field of trees. And while all the trees aren’t ready for cutting (these leafy green beauties take time), they do have roughly 500 white pine and Murray Cypress trees that are ready for their holiday debut. For those who prefer a heartier branch, they also offer nearly 800 fresh, pre-cut Frasier Firs—brought in from the mountains of North Carolina.

Once you’ve found the perfect tree, the farm provides all the tools necessary to cut, haul, and secure your tree. Not handy with a saw? Daniel and his team will cut the tree for you and then shake and bale it so it’s ready for the ride to its final destination. Once your tree is secure, be sure to check out the other holiday décor available. From garlands to wreaths to mailbox swag, A&A Christmas Trees offers more than just trees. Created by Dianne and Anne, you can choose from plain, natural greenery or those decorated with pine cones and ribbons to add some festive fl air and welcome holiday guests.

When it’s time to find the picture-perfect Christmas tree this year, make visiting A&A Christmas Trees a new family tradition. Daniel and his family are devoted to quality and the guest experience, and once you set foot on their farm, you’ll feel just like family. And whether you choose a pre-cut Frasier Fir or decide to venture out into the rows of pines and cypresses (watch out for the stumps!), just think how beautiful your handpicked Christmas tree will look once it's standing tall in your home, wrapped with twinkling lights, adorned with ornaments, and sprinkled with unforgettable memories.

A&A Christmas Trees is located at 42 Old Cooler Circle in Okatie, South Carolina. The holiday fun gets underway the day after Thanksgiving—when they open for the season. A&A will close when they’ve determined that they have sold all the field trees available. (They need to save trees for the next season for more magical memories!)

For more information, including availability of commercial-size trees, please call 843-987-9423 or visit aachristmastrees.com.

Written by Kristen Constantineau

Photography by THE 2654 PROJECT

Culture

Complete this form to find out more about what's happening at Palmetto Bluff.