Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
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This article was published 9/12/2014 (2119 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The annual debate over the merits of real and artificial Christmas trees continues, but not among the McGuckin family in Headingley.
Roy and Verna McGuckin operate RBM Gardens Christmas Trees at 7521 Roblin Blvd., selling thousands of cut trees and handmade wreaths each December.
The business was begun by Roy’s parents about 40 years ago, and originally included a market garden operation.
As a crew of four women busily snipped tree boughs and wove them into wreaths, the smell of pine permeated the air inside the McGuckins’ shop on Dec. 2. Outside, a crew of able-bodied men loaded trees into trucks to be delivered to tree lots in Winnipeg and across the province.
"We deliver all over," Verna said. "We ship them all the way to Churchill."
Each year, the McGuckins buy trees from tree farmers across North America. "We buy from all over," Verna said.
Their season starts in mid-November. "As the trees are cut, we bring them in," she said.
Trees must be cut after the warmer weather ends and they enter dormancy, but before very cold weather causes the tree’s trunk to freeze, making it difficult to cut without damaging the tree.
Verna said the old favourite — Scotch pine — has given way to Fraser fir and balsam as the most popular varieties. They also sell white pine and spruce.
Her favourite is Fraser fir. "They are easy to decorate and they keep their needles."
She said the number of trees sold has remained relatively stable over the years, despite the availability of artificial trees. "The numbers haven’t really changed."
Verna said boughs are cut from Fraser fir and white pine to make wreaths. Even those who have an artificial tree inside their home can get the scent of pine by buying a seasonal wreath. They are also popular gifts.
The McGuckins sell trees and wreaths on their lot, but the majority of their revenue comes from their wholesale business. Groups including Optimist and Kinsmen Clubs, Scouts and high school
students sell them as fundraisers.
These trees must be shipped out by the first week in December, Verna said, then she and Roy turn their attention to the retail aspect of their business.
"We have our loyal customers," she said. She enjoys seeing families pick the tree that will help them celebrate the holiday season.
To solve the perennial problem of placing the tree in a stand and making it stand straight, the McGuckins sell stands with a spike and will drill a hole into the bottom of the tree’s trunk so it can be easily placed on the stand.
Of course there are always some trees left unsold by the time Christmas Day arrives, and Verna said these are donated to the Festival du Voyageur to be used to mark the skating trails along the Assiniboine and Red Rivers.
Verna’s tips for keeping a tree fresh
• Have the trunk freshly cut and then get it into water within a few hours so it doesn’t seal up;
• Locate the tree away from direct sunlight coming through a window;
• Don’t place the tree next to a heating vent, or close the vent;
• Use tap water in the tree stand and don’t let the water dry up.
Community journalist — The Headliner
Andrea Geary is the community journalist for The Headliner. Email her at email@example.com Call her at 204-697-7124
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