Trees of many colors: Flocking gives Christmas staple a different hue
For Opal “Catherine” Travis, tinsel, stars and tree ornaments simply don't go far enough on Christmas.
Sometimes even the tree needs a dye job.
Tree flocking is popular in California, the Southwest and other warm, snowless locales, but is still trying to find its niche in Western Pennsylvania.
Still, the technology Kristen Joseph uses to make trees go from green to white, to purple — or whatever color you want — has gotten way better since the 1950s, when her grandfather and great-grandfather mixed their first batch of tree-flocking material in an old washing machine.
“You can't find this much any more,” says Joseph, who runs Joseph's Nursery and Garden Center in Monessen, one in a handful of local tree vendors that flock trees, wreaths and other adornments. “But we do what we can to keep this from becoming a lost art.”
In the Travis family home, nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a tall, bushy Christmas tree bathed in gold flocking.
Christmas trees are more than a festive symbol of Yuletide for Travis, 87, a retired Upward Bound worker in Brownsville, Fayette County.
She had very little as a child growing up in the Depression era. A Christmas tree was hard to come by, as were the presents underneath.
Travis remembers bundling up in her winter clothes every December to peer into neighbors' windows to catch a glimpse at their trees, wreaths and other decor.
“I used to tell myself, ‘If I ever get a home of my own, I'm gonna have a Christmas tree, period,' ” Travis recalls.
She ended up getting her own home and, at 19, she bought her first tree for $12. Travis got turned to flocking about 35 years ago by a guy who used to color and sell trees at a lot on High Street in Brownsville.
Travis has gotten gold trees each year since 2000 to match the red-and-gold wallpaper, curtains and couch set in her living room.
“It makes me smile,” she says. “Gold seems to brighten up the house.”
So, how do you make a tree go from green to something else?
First, you need a turntable — a big one.
Once there, the tree can be slowly spun while someone applies fireproof flocking material to it with a high-pressure sprayer.
The mixture is typically is made of cotton and rayon. Joseph says white with silver glitter is by far the most popular color, though it's not uncommon for some customers to request wilder ones.
Even pink was en vogue for at least one flocking fan.
“That was for a baby shower,” Joseph says. “It's a personal preference. Whatever color you can think of, we can do it.”
Flocking may still be in search of a fan base here, but it's clear that nationally sales of trees — particularly of live ones — have bounced back since the recession years.
Pennsylvania still ranks second nationally in the number of Christmas tree farms, and fourth in both the volume of trees cut each year and the acres used in production. Only Oregon has more tree farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Sales of real trees outpace those made of plastic or aluminum by a 3-to-1 margin, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. The Chesterfield, Mo.-based nonprofit represents tree farms and more than 4,000 business that grow and sell Christmas trees or provide related supplies and services.
In 2011, consumers bought 30.8 million trees, a 13 percent increase from the year before. The sales generated $1.1 billion in sales for the industry.
Travis spent part of one day recently trimming her 7-foot blond pine tree with red orbs and miniature shoes.
“I hope this (trend) doesn't go away,” she says. “I just don't know what I'd do without a gold tree in my house for Christmas. It just wouldn't be the same.”
Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5682.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Many Penguins free agents expected to depart
- More witness intimidation charges filed against Plum teacher
- Scaife trustees seek dismissal of siblings’ lawsuit
- American Airlines manager arrested in Pittsburgh on sex crimes charges
- Suspected allies of beach gunman arrested in Tunisia
- Deer reporting failures spark debate for Pa. Game Commission
- Penguins re-sign defenseman Cole to 3-year deal
- Kuwait mosque bomber slipped security watch in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain
- Shady Side Academy graduate Harchelroad excels in 3 sports
- Scouts think Penguins could regain luster with minor tinkering
- High school notebook: Hempfield softball star Ryan commits to Notre Dame