Red, blue, pink, purple — if you're hankering for a standout Christmas tree this year, you don't have to go artificial. Dart's Tree Farm in Southold is going out on a limb, joining a small number of tree farms around the county that have started spray-painting some of its live specimens in hopes the striking shades will dazzle customers looking for something different.
“It’s part of the evolution of farming,” says Dart, whose family business dates back to 1918. He says the colored trees seem to be particularly appealing to millennials looking for the newest bright shiny object for the holidays. “There’s a new generation of people who can’t live without them and I’m hoping to find more of those people.”
Indeed — the farm's new "Magic Color Forest" will be impossible to miss when it opens for business the day after Thanksgiving. While there's still plenty of traditional green Frasier firs on offer in the u-cut field, customers will encounter other trees painted ethereal shades of bright pink, powder blue or golden yellow in a new pop-up attraction that has a $5 admission fee.
OUT COME THE COLORS
Dart gets the effect by using an airless sprayer to coat the trees with nontoxic, acrylic paint. The process takes about 15 minutes, although the tree needs another four hours to dry. The farm's natural green Christmas trees sell for around $100 depending on size, and the painted trees go for about 30 percent more.
Last year, Matthew Asaro of Smithtown says he paid about $200 for a stark white tree from Dart's, a price he didn't mind to get something special.
He says he, his wife and 7-year-old son go to the East End to buy their Christmas trees every year and that as soon as his son saw the painted trees, he got excited.
“The white tree just stuck out,” Asaro, who works for a Mattituck party rentals company, says. The fresh tree lasted so long that he entertained the idea of decorating it for Easter. They'll be back for another painted version this year.
A LASTING TREND?
Stephanie Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Greenwich, New York-based Christmas tree Farmers Association of New York, says painted live Christmas trees are something exciting both for the customer and the tree farmer.
“It’s definitely fun for the growers because it’s different and not harmful to the tree, and for people who like their decorating it’s like another piece of the holiday experience,” Kelly says. But Kelly says there are only a small number of Christmas tree farmers getting on board with the idea.
Ann Carter, owner of Carter Christmas tree Farm in Miller Place, is not.
“I don’t want to knock anybody, I just think it’s a passing fad,” Carter says. “We go for traditional. We have a historic farm in a nationally registered historic district so they’re more traditional people (her customers), but I find it interesting people are doing it.”
For his part, Dart says the trend is something that’s giving new life to the concept of a live Christmas tree, but it's likely to be fleeting. For one thing, the paint masks a tree's natural scent, which is a huge part of the attraction of getting a real tree in the first place.
“I just can’t believe it will be a forever thing,” Dart says of painted trees. “It’s a momentary bit of thrill. It’s like miniskirts or bell bottoms. They’re just movin’ through an era.”
"Magic Color Forest" at Dart's Tree Farm
2355 Main Bayview Rd., Southold
WHEN 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29 and continuing Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22. The farm's special holiday attraction includes a brightly colored tree-lined walkway for photo opps, a children’s’ scavenger hunt and other vignettes. Admission is $5 a person for ages 5 and older (free younger than 5).
TO BUY A PAINTED TREE All cut-your-own Christmas trees — including painted versions — are sold 9 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week through Christmas Eve.