Elisa Scanlan had her eye on a stately 14-foot Nordman fir at the Pinery Christmas Trees lot in Del Mar.
“My husband is 6-foot-8, so he likes a big tree,” Scanlan said. “This one is pretty big.”
Scanlan and Christmas tree shoppers throughout the county will also pay a higher price this year for the tree of their choice at independent retailers
“It’s not like the prices jumped $30 in one year, but they have definitely increased,” said Mike Osborne, co-owner of Pinery Trees and a second-generation industry veteran.
Osborne said his premium, high-quality Christmas trees, 6- to 7-feet tall, are selling for about $95 to $130 this season. That’s approximately a 30 percent price increase compared to four years ago.
Owners of the Mr. Jingles Christmas Tree lots also said the price they pay for trees has skyrocketed this year and selection is limited especially with taller trees.
Osborne of Pinery Trees cited the high cost of farm labor in the Pacific Northwest as one reason for the price hikes.
He also said fewer seedlings are surviving the increasingly hot summer temperatures in growing areas where some tree farmers can lose 30-50 percent of their crops to the wilting heat.
It also takes six to 10 years to grow a mature Noble or Nordman fir tree. Osborne said some farmers are switching to more profitable crops, such as hazelnuts and grapes, that can be harvested more often.
He sees a dim future for some popular species of Christmas trees, including the Nordman and Grand firs.
“They’re going to be all but extinct in the next couple of years,” Osborne said.
In general, Osborne said Christmas tree prices will continue to climb while the supply of taller trees continues to shrink.
But he has some reassuring words for Scanlan and other shoppers who can’t imagine Christmas without a fresh, beautiful, high-quality tree.
“You’re always going to see live Christmas trees,” Osborne said.
For those who don’t want to, or can’t afford a high-quality tree, some big-box retailers still sell 6- to 7-foot trees for about $50. But Osborne cautions that those trees are of considerably lesser quality.
Artificial trees are also an option. For example, Costco sells a 9-foot artificial “pre-lit” tree for $450.