The Christmas spirit thrives 365 days a year in Lauren Booth’s family.
The Horry County woman’s family has owned and operated the area’s only Christmas tree farm for 50 years and she is slowly taking the reins from her father, Haley, to operate the 40-acre operation.
“We’re always in the Christmas spirit because we’re always dealing with it,” Lauren Booth said Wednesday. “Most people are in a good mood when they get here, so it’s fun.”
With root-rotting diseases reported in trees in North Carolina, Lauren Booth said her customers should not worry about trees purchased at the farm.
“If the tree has made it to the lot, it’s not infected,” Booth said.
Since South Carolina’s climate and altitude can’t host the Fraser fir, Christmas tree farms rely on North Carolina’s supply to meet the desires of tree shoppers during the holiday season.
In North Carolina, Phytophthora costs farmers up to $6 million a year, said John Frampton, a Christmas tree geneticist at North Carolina State
University in Raleigh. The nearly inescapable disease – which largely affects Fraser firs – occurs when damp soil conditions allow for its spores to swim through the root systems of trees and eventually kill them.
Seven varieties of trees are grown on the Booth farm which includes Virginia Pine, White Pine, Leyland Cypress, Carolina Sapphire, Eastern Red Cedar, Clemson Green Spire and Deodar Cedar. Handmade wreaths and made-to-order garland are also available.
The popular Fraser Fir trees are imported from three growers located in the area of Boone, N.C., Lauren Booth said. This year, the farm has 700 trees available to be cut from the grounds and 700 imported Fraser Fir trees for sale.
But they’re selling quickly, Booth said.
“We had record setting sales Black Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We’ve never done that much business on any given day,” she said, but noted exact figures were not available.
Booth’s Christmas tree farm was started by Haley Booth’s father, LaRue, and they entered their 50th year this season this year.
The business typically opens on Thanksgiving Day, but this year they opened a week early because of the late arrival of the holiday.
Garland made by Haley Booth also has been a big seller this season.
On Wednesday, he said he had made 940 feet for customers such as Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, who ordered 400 feet.
The family also replenishes their stock of trees with three planted for every tree that is cut.
“They grow about a foot a year, so any time we’ve got a place to plant, we’ll plant,” Lauren Booth said. “It takes a while to get a tree to selling size [average size is seven feet].”
In addition to annual plantings in January, Lauren Booth and a small crew trim the trees a couple times a year with an electric trimmer. They also spray for insects and fertilize the trees throughout the year.
But not every tree sold from the farm comes from the fields.
Conway city officials got their annual tree from the front yard of Lauren Booth’s mother this year, she said. The 28-foot Leyland Cypress tree was among several trees planted more than a decade ago as a natural privacy barrier. Two remain in the yard because Booth said her father keeps selling them.
“My mother said if you’re going to cut and sell one, get rid of them all,” Lauren Booth said.
The State contributed to this story.
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.