Few journeys’ rival the worldwide trek St. Nicholas makes every year from his home in the North Pole, yet the amazing path Christmas trees make from farm to store to the living room may prove to be a close second.
For residents of Seymour, the sight of Christmas Trees being sold on the side of Chapman Highway has become a familiar site, a testament to McMahan Plant’s 30 plus years in the business. During the winter months, the Plant Nursery shifts its business to focus on a variety of indoor and winter blooming plants: poinsettias and pansies. Violas and local artistry may prove popular, but it’s the selling of Christmas trees that dominate the local business in the days leading up to Dec. 25.
Having witnessed different generations of residents coming to her establishment to purchase their first family Christmas Tree, McMahan Plants owner Mikki McMahan said that the feeling of providing that kind of special holiday memory is one she hasn’t yet taken for granted.
“A lot of that (excitement) is probably tradition and the history of having that, and the experience of going to get your tree,” McMahan said. “Some of our customers that come in today for their Christmas tree were tiny kids coming with their parents here for their tree. Part of it I think is the experience of it, being able to come and pick out your tree and the excitement of it and tradition. It’s just become something that people look forward to doing every year.”
Before she can make those memories happen, however, McMahan must first procure her supply of fir trees from neighboring North Carolina farms. Those farms, many of which lie on the mountainous border between Tennessee and North Carolina, combine to create the more than 1,600 Christmas tree growers that call the Tar Heel State home. North Carolina produces over 12 percent of the total real Christmas tree population in the United States, with the industry ranking second in the nation behind only Oregon. Fir trees can take anywhere from seven to 10 years to grow into properly sized trees, depending on conditions.
Once those trees are cut and shipped west to Tennessee, McMahan arranges to receive them in continuous shipments throughout the year in order to ensure their freshness. Upon their arrival, the trees are stored in a cool shed adjacent to the main greenhouse. There, they’re pruned and groomed to the customer’s specifications, each tree ranging from miniature in size to more than 15 feet tall.
Though she’s dealt with competition from artificial trees over her many decades in business, McMahan ultimately feels it’s the experience of buying a real tree, coupled with the community’s support for local business, that have kept her garden based establishment running for so long.
“Especially years ago, when it became a little more popular to get artificial trees, we would see sometimes a customer who’d been with us for decades, would buy an artificial tree, but a year or two later they’d be right back in,” McMahan said, noting a familiar line she’s become used to hearing from her customers. “’Oh I can’t take it, I have to have a real tree.’”

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