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Changing styles of Christmas


Drake's 7-Dees garden center is using colored flocking for this year's crop of Christmas trees

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Chris Cromwell, manager at 7-Dees Nursery at 169th and Stark Street, shows off a custom flocked Christmas tree.

For decades, folks have flocked to Drake’s 7-Dees Nursery for yard and garden advice. Each December, some return to pick up their holiday greenery.

But this year, people are flocking to the 38-year old nursery on Southeast Stark Street for another reason.

“We can’t leave Mother Nature alone,” said Chris Cromwell, manager at 7-Dees, laughing. “I was looking through a catalog and saw colored flock and thought ‘Why not?’ It isn’t a trend; we just wanted to be a little different. And it does set us apart.”

Outside the main entrance to the nursery stands a line of once evergreen sentinels, proudly displaying what can be done with a Christmas tree, a little imagination and colored flocking. Green and yellow, orange and black, red, purple — the trees are far from traditional, but make a statement nonetheless.

When 7-Dees opted to offer less conventional flocked trees, they anticipated selling about a dozen, Cromwell said. But given fan loyalty to sports teams and those seeking to make a stunning decorating statement with their Christmas tree, sales for the trees has been somewhat of a surprise.

“Response has been good,” Cromwell said. “We’ve sold somewhere between 30 and 40, but most people seem to be buying them for a second tree in the house.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Colored flocked Christmas trees are a new addition to holiday greenery at Drake's 7-Dees.

Cromwell admitted the nursery has sold more “Duck” trees than “Beaver” trees, adding that the company plays no favorites with the longstanding in-state rivalry. But customers have been quick to point out that their order for a colored tree isn’t necessarily a nod to Oregon’s two bowl-bound teams.

“We had a customer who wanted a green and yellow tree because he’s a Green Bay Packer fan,” Cromwell said. “And the black and orange could also be for the Cincinnati Bengals. We’ve even had a few people ask about red and black for the Trailblazers. It’s funny because 50 percent of the people love the colored trees and 50 percent hate them. But they all talk about them.”

7-Dees flocks nearly 500 Christmas trees annually, Cromwell said, usually in white. Those stumped for ideas on how to accentuate a flocked tree need only wander through the garden center to see gorgeous examples of decorated trees worthy of a magazine cover.

But tweaking with Mother Nature isn’t reserved for just evergreens. For years, 7-Dees has been known for its “painted” Poinsettias. Designers use either a floral spray paint or floral dye to embellish the leaves on a Poinsettia to produce blues, pinks or two-toned salmon colored plants. The result is a glittering variation on a traditional holiday decoration that has yielded a loyal following.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - 7-Dees also sells painted poinsettias. Designers use either a floral spray paint or floral dye on the leaves to produce blues, pinks or two-toned salmon colors.

“People come back every year for their painted Poinsettia,” Cromwell said. “They get kind of upset if they come in and they’re not ready yet.”

Price tag on a flocked tree depends on the height and variety of the tree. Costs range anywhere between $40 for a three-foot tree to $230 for a 10-footer and includes the stand. There is no additional cost for colored flocking, however.

The struggling economy has had an effect on the Christmas tree industry, Cromwell said, causing customers to be a little more cautious with the expense of one of the symbols of the holiday. But most people, he added, aren’t compromising to the point of not having a tree at all.

“A lot of people are downsizing the size of their tree this year,” Cromwell said. “They used to buy a 10-footer, but now, they’re buying an 8-foot tree. I think people are being more careful with their money because their tree is a yearly expense.”

Fast Facts:

Who: Drake’s 7-Dees Landscaping and Garden Center

Where: 16519 S.E. Stark St., Portland

What: full-service landscaping and garden design center; seasonal advice and nursery services

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information: 503-256-0087.