Boughs of jolly
Farmers and vendors see green in fresh-cut Christmas trees
FRANOIS, also known as The Tree Man,
sets up his stand every year on the corner of 102nd Street and Broadway.
He and the 500 Christmas trees he brings from Quebec have become a fixture in Manhattan's Upper West Side.
For up to five weeks he sells the trees by day for 20 to 300, depending on size and quality, sleeping in his van at night.
What he earns is, he says, the icing on the cake of his annual income.
The Tree Man is a small branch of a big business.
According to a survey by the National Christmas Tree Association, a trade group, Americans spent more than 1 billion on 25 mtrees in 2012.
The average price they said they paid was 40.
But not all Christmas trees are alike.
People on the East Coast like Fraser firs, with their typical evergreen fragrance.
Oregon's Grand Fir, which has an orange-like scent, is popular in California.
Many homes can no longer make do with the festive cheer that only one tree brings.
Bob Sedlatschek of Home Depot, a chain store which expects to sell 2.8 mtrees this year, notes that some households are buying several.
Lou Mignone bought five this year, cutting down the last at Maple Row Tree Farm in Easton, Connecticut, where mums and dads wearing Santa hats meander round the lush 200 acres looking for the perfect sapling. About a quarter of buyers like to pick their own at tree farms.
Scott Edwards, who owns Maple Row, a former dairy farm in his family for 200 years, makes all his sales in the four weeks before Christmas.
His is one of 15,000 such farms in America.
Most are small and family-owned.
Easton, the Christmas-tree capital of Connecticut, is home to half a dozen, all located within a few miles of each other.
Every second car leaving the area has a tree or two strapped to its roof.
Those who find sawing a fir too laborious and choosing one from a tree seller too time-consuming can turn to technology.
Harry DeLucia and his brother set up a website, nyctrees.com, where New Yorkers can purchase trees grown in New Jersey.
If that is too much bother an artificial tree might be the answer.
Rick Dungey, of the NCTA, dismisses the artificial sort as plastic tree-shaped decorations.
Americans tend to agree, buying more real trees than fake ones.
Of 35m sold every year, 70% sprout from the ground.
Despite a rise in sales a decade ago, fake trees have lost their sparkle since the financial crisis.
But according to the American Christmas Tree Association, a trade group that claims to represent both types of tree, 83% of homes have a fake shrub.
They may be less work and serve for many Christmases, but they make greens cringe.
Once Christmas is over, most real trees are recycled.
The needles, however, will periodically turn up on the sitting room floor until Easter.
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