Mission Hills

San Diego: Have You Bought Your $700 Christmas Tree Yet?

Christmas tree shoppers can expect to pay a premium at the Mission Hills Nursery in San Diego, one well above what they would have to shell out at Costco or Home Depot

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Oh, Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree
How pricey are thy branches!
Oh Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree
How expensive are thy branches!

-- with apologies to Ernst Anschütz

Holiday shoppers could be in for some serious sticker shock this year if they pick out a Christmas tree this year at a nursery in the tony Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego.

By now just about everybody has heard about the supply-chain shortages, trucking issues and general inflation permeating most areas of the economy, but for the most part, folks hoping to pick up a tree this weekend or anytime soon can expect to pay similar prices to what they did last year.

Visitors to the Mission Hills Nursery on Fort Stockton Drive, however, which has been supplying neighbors since 1910 with everything from shrubs to sod to — more recently — young chickens, may have noticed in the last week or so that a tractor trailer unloaded hundreds of trees, some bigger than others, some on special order for homes with very HIGH ceilings.

Bargain hunters know they'll pay a premium for yard and garden goods at the nursery, but this year's prices for Christmas trees can, in some cases, be hair raising. One 13-14 foot noble fir boasted an eye-watering $699.99 price tag, with another noble fir a foot shorter going for the slightly smaller but no less impressive $599.99.

Not everything at Mission Hills Nursery is in the triple digits, of course — a 4-5 foot DOUGLAS fir can keep the hearth warm for $45.99, for example. But many of their trees are more than a C-note: A 6-7 foot Noble Fir will set you back nearly $120, while a 10 footer is a hefty $329.99. Douglas firs have to crack 8-9 foot to crack that three-digit ceiling, at $129.99. And they're all selling.

"I've been busy, yeah, they're already picked up," said the nursery's Tony Palafox about sales. "If the day after Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving is cold, we are really busy after Thanksgiving. We got the trees on a cold day, so it's been busy since we got the trees in a week ago."

Palafox said external factors have had an effect on tree prices this year — they trucked down 620 from Mossy Rock, Wash., she said, and will get 600 more during the holiday season.

"We are definitely paying more in freight than we did last year," Palafox said before discussing the drought and wildfire impacts. "And you will have some shortages of trees, possibly, because it takes a tree one year to grow a foot. If there were any taller trees damaged, you're not going to be able to get those."

Palafox added that, after 2008 and the recession, some growers were reluctant to plant, and some older families, who farmed trees for generations — the younger folks coming along may not have wanted to follow their elders into the business.

And those high-end trees? Those are special orders that have been placed ahead of time — and they'll all move, Palafox said.

"We don't bring in the $500 or $600 trees unless somenbody told us they're going to want it," Palafox said, adding, "anything that's on our lot, we will sell out of."

There's thousands of trees for sale or about to be all over the county, of course, most of them available for much less. Costco members can head over to Morena Boulevard starting Friday or, possibly, Saturday, to pick up a 6-8 foot noble fir for $69.99, an employee said on Wednesday. And there's 600 trees holding down the parking lot at the Home Depot on Sports Arena Boulevard, where a 9-10 foot noble fir from the Oregon Noble Mountain Tree Farm, for example, will run you $169.

The prices at those two retailers are very similar to last year.

So, once you've paid the green for all that evergreen, how do you make it last?

"Keep it outside for as long as possible," Palafox said, and hose it off every night as long as it's outside.

And when you take it inside, don't put it next to or near a window with a southern exposure, and keep it away from fireplaces as well as HVAC vents.

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