Landrum Wanderings: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, November 21, 2017

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches. If you’re like me, you’re ready for the season of Christmas trees, Christmas carols, and Hallmark Christmas movies. This summer while looking for the non-existent Rainbow Lake, I discovered a tree farm called Christmas Hill. Today I’m excited to visit Scott Wagner to learn about his tree farm, Christmas Hill, and Christmas trees.

As I approach the farm, I think I’m entering a Hallmark movie! Two giant candy canes and toy soldiers welcome me up the hill. It just needs a dusting of snow! Scott drives down in his tractor to greet me. “Welcome to Christmas Hill,” he smiles. As we walk around, perusing the multitude of trees marked with white tags, he tells me about the farm.

“My dad, John Wagner, started Christmas Hill back in 1983. He grew up in Polk County around Columbus. When the St. Lawrence Seaway was being built in northern New York State, he left this area to work on the Seaway project for 16 years,” he tells me.

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My eyes light up. “The St. Lawrence Seaway? That’s where I grew up,” I tell him. “I remember when it opened. I was in high school. My girlfriend invited me to her island and, since it was a US-Canada endeavor, we watched Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles sail by for the opening.” Isn’t it always fun to learn that it’s a small world?

Scott continues, “When my Dad retired he wanted to return to the Carolinas so we relocated here. He found this location. He thought about growing pecans but decided that was too difficult. Then he had the idea to start a Christmas tree farm. I was in high school, going to Boiling Springs. After that I was a butcher for 25 years. My brothers stayed in New York. In 1991, my Dad was getting older, he’s 83 now. So I’m the next generation to run the farm.”

I notice the many decorations being placed around the hill. “Yes, I do all the decorations, all 60,000 of them,” he laughs. “I start November 1. My wife makes the Christmas wreaths. We’re a completely family run business. My sister in Charlotte will come down, my brother will be here from New York, and my children in Rock Hill will be helping out. This is a very busy time for us.”

They grow their own trees, including Leyland Cypress, White Pine, and Blue Ice. Scott says, “The Blue Ice is a hybrid from the cedar family. Some people like it  because of the smell and they hold their color.” Fraser firs, grown in a higher altitude in the Blue Ridge Mountains, are trucked in. “You pick out your tree, we cut it down for you, shake out all the debris, and use our netting machine to wrap it so you can easily get it home in perfect condition,” he explains.

I’m curious about how many Christmas trees they sell in a season. “About 500,” he reflects. “We’re now selling to the children and grandchildren of customers who originally bought from us. Some customers come all the way from Florida and Texas to buy from us.”

His eyes sparkle as he tells me the story of a special family. “We have a family who care for several foster children, some are dealing with disabilities. They come every year and seek out the ugliest tree on the lot. They take it home and make it beautiful. It’s a real Charlie Brown tree.”

“What about artificial trees? Have they taken away some of your business?” I ask.

“No, we call those ‘holiday trees’. We sell Christmas trees,” he quickly responds with a smile. “And during the recession we were busier than ever. People want traditional things this time of year.”

Some greenhouses on the hill catch my attention. “That’s the other part of our business. We have five greenhouses. We propagate tree plants and sell to nurseries and landscapers all over the country. And of course, we replant. When we cut a tree down, we replant right next to it.” He adds, “We’re now getting into blueberries. We have 500 bushes. This will be the first year that we offer ‘U Pick’.”

The North Pacolet River flows along the edge of the farm. “It supplies us with the water we need for the trees and greenhouses.” Scott points up the hill. “It gets pumped up to a 30,000 gallon water tank and then is gravity fed down to the plantings.”

It’s time to let Scott get back to his decorating. I thank him for sharing his time and for telling me all about Christmas Hill. Christmas tree sales begin Thanksgiving Day and continue through Christmas. Hours are 9 a.m. -6 p.m. For questions, phone 864-592-2764.

To reach the farm from I-26, take exit 5, Highway 11, and proceed north towards Fingerville. Take a right at the flashing caution light (Rainbow Lake Rd). Travel one mile, take a left at Anderson Rd, take a left on Riverside Dr. The farm is on the right.

But wait! Maybe I am in a Hallmark movie. As I drive away on the road above, I look across the valley. A giant yellow moon appears over Christmas Hill with Santa Claus and his reindeer flying past! Clement Moore’s “Night Before Christmas” immediately races through my mind.

“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.”

I drive on home, along the country highway framed by orange, yellow, and red fall trees, singing to myself, “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches.”