BOUGH WOW Trees: The choicest cuts for Christmas await at nearby farms, but take a merry measurement before you take one home.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

About to make the trek to ye old Christmas tree farm? Whether you're a neophyte or have been at it for a while, tips on what to look for can be helpful. When it comes to selecting that perfect fresh Christmas tree, it's wise to start from the bottom up.

"The first thing people should look at is the handle, the trunk stem," says Paul McHugh, owner of Brandy Farms, located in Anne Arundel County north of Crofton.

The retired school teacher, who has been in the "choose and cut" Christmas tree business since 1989, explains that there should be about 7 to 12 inches from the ground to the first branch. Or at least try to picture how a tree would look if you remove those bottom branches, says McHugh, who writes children's literature in his spare time.

Move your eye up the tree and check out the next layer, called the "whirl branches." There should be no wide spaces between whirls, McHugh says.

There should be just one leader on the very top of the tree. That's the head branch that sticks up at the top, he says. (And the one where people usually place an angel or a star ornament.)

And, of course, you want a tree with a nice color. But don't get thrown off if it has a color usually associated with Halloween instead of Christmas.

"People should know that sometimes trees get to be a light tint of orange. That means they are defending themselves from the cold. That's OK," McHugh says.

Some folks have been known to become a tad confused about that slight orange color.

"I remember a farmer said he had sold a tree that had the light orange tint," McHugh recalls. "A customer came in the next year and said, 'I want one of those golden Scotch pines!' "

A light tinge of orange is fine, but that's as far as it should go. "Trees should not be brown, of course," he says.

McHugh says the tree should be just the correct height and width to fit your home. That should be obvious, but sometimes, when out in the field, people get a bit carried away and choose a grand tree that's larger than their homes can accommodate.

Here's his good and simple tip on choosing a size.

"Have someone stand in the spot where the tree is going to go and have them hold their arms up. Then repeat the same thing in the field to get some idea," McHugh says.

Now, that's done. You have chosen a tree and taken it home.

"Once you get it home, cut about a quarter to a half inch off the base of the trunk and put it in water," he says. Remember to keep the tree stand filled with water. The water will help prevent the trees from drying out and dropping their needles, but some trees "tend to hold their needles" more than others, he says. The white pine, the Scotch pine, East Coast Douglas firs and Frazier firs are examples of these.

"Norway spruce and white spruce are beautiful trees but tend to drop needles easily," he says.

Additional tips from the National Christmas Tree Association:

Do a freshness test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand. Once you've chosen your tree, keep it in a sheltered, unheated area such as a porch or garage until you are ready to decorate it.

Keep your tree away from heat and draft sources such as fireplaces, radiators and television sets. Test light cords and connections before hanging them on the tree.

There are many Christmas tree farms throughout Maryland. But if you don't want to cut your own, one place to buy a Christmas tree and also do a good deed is in Baltimore at Memorial Stadium.

That sale is sponsored by the American Legion for the benefit of the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland. The tree sale runs daily through Dec. 20 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Here is a selection of tree farms in the Baltimore metropolitan area:

Anne Arundel County

Brandy Farms. (410) 721-5868. About 1 mile north of Crofton, take Route 3 north 1.5 miles. Right on St. Stephens for almost 1/2 mile to farm on left. Open through Dec. 15; weekdays noon to 4 p.m., weekends 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Friendship Trees. (410) 741-5712. From Capital Beltway take Route 4 south to Route 260 to Route 778. Go left on Route 778 a half mile to farm on left. Open through Dec. 19 or until sold out. Noon to 4: 30 p.m. daily, 9 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. weekends.

Mas-que Farm. (410) 757-4454. About 1 mile southwest of Annapolis. From U.S. 50, take Route 2 south a half mile. Turn left on Forest Drive for 1.5 miles; turn right on Spa Road for a quarter mile to sign on right. Open weekends through Dec. 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Baltimore County

Doyle's Tree Farm. (410) 357-8056. About 3 miles northeast of Hereford. From I-83, take Middletown Road (Exit 31) east a half mile to dead end at York Road. Turn right on York Road for quarter mile to left on Wiseburg Road and continue for half mile. Turn right on Bernoudy Road. Continue 1 mile to sign on right. Open through Dec. 22, weekends only, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Elliott's Ventura Farm. (410) 771-4510. About 1 mile north of Butler. From the Beltway take Falls Road Exit 23B (Route 25). Go north on Falls Road for 12 miles to farm on right. Open through Dec. 22, Thursdays-Sundays only, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Feezers Tree Farm. (410) 461-5654 or (410) 461-5555. About 5 miles west of Randallstown. From the Beltway take Exit 18, Route 26 west, for 8 miles, left on Wards Chapel Road for 1.8 miles to sign on right. Open through Dec. 22, 7: 30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.

Frostee Tree Farm. (410) 687-3344 or (410) 256-5560. About 1 mile northeast of White Marsh Mall. Take Beltway to I-95 north to U.S. 40 East. Go quarter mile to a left on Ebenezer Road, which becomes Cowenton Avenue, to sign on left. Open through Dec. 23. weekdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., weekends 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Green Hill Farm. (410) 592-7813. About 8 miles from Towson. From Beltway take Dulaney Valley Road (Route 146) north for 4 miles. Cross the Loch Raven Bridge, bearing right 2 miles to Peerce's Plantation, then left 2 miles, still on Dulaney Valley Road. Turn left onto Manor Road. Farm is 1.5 miles on your left. Open through Dec. 22, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jones' Christmas Tree Farm. (410) 771-4346. Monkton, north of Towson. From Beltway, take Exit 27N (Dulaney Valley Road north) and go across the Loch Raven Bridge. Bear left onto Jarrettsville Pike. Go through light at Four Corners. Turn left on Manor Road to Manor Tavern. Turn right onto Old York Road. Go one mile to farm on left. Open weekends only, Dec. 7 and 8, Dec. 14 and 15, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Locksley Tree Farm. (410) 666-2652. About half mile north of Jacksonville. From Beltway, take Exit 27N (Dulaney Valley Road north) and go across the Loch Raven Bridge. Bear left onto Jarrettsville Pike. Turn right on Stansbury Mill Road for 1.5 miles to Dunstan Lane, follow signs. Open through Dec. 22, weekends 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Martin's Tree Farm. (410) 374-2593. From I-83N take 137W 7 miles, right on Falls Road 2.5 miles to farm on left. Open through Dec. 24. Monday through Wednesday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mount Carmel Tree Farm. (410) 329-8032. About 3 miles west of Hereford. From Beltway, take I-83 north to Mount Carmel Road west, go 2.8 miles to farm sign on left, just past church. Open through Dec. 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Oak Hill Tree Farm. (410) 343-1212. About 2.5 miles northwest of Hereford. Take Exit 27 off I-83. From I-83 take Mount Carmel Road for 7 miles. Right on Masemore Road; 2 miles to sign on right. Open through Dec. 23, weekdays by appointment; Saturday 9 a.m. to dusk; Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Pleasant Hill Farm. (410) 329-6239. About 2 miles east of Hereford. Take I-83 north to Mount Carmel Road east. Go half mile, then turn right onto York Road. Turn left onto Monkton Road for 1.8 miles to sign on left. Open through Dec. 21, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Prettyboy Tree Farm. (410) 357-4924. About 4.5 miles west of Parkton. From I-83, take Middleton Road west for 4.5 miles to farm on left. Open through Dec. 22, weekends only, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ruhl's Tree Farm. (410) 666-2924. About half mile north of Jacksonville. From Beltway take Dulaney Valley Road 4 miles, left on Jarrettsville Pike, 5 miles to farm on left. Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through Dec. 24.

Stansbury Tree Farm. (410) 666-2531. About half mile north of Jacksonville. From the Beltway take Dulaney Valley Road (Route 146) north for 8.5 miles and bear left onto Jarrettsville Pike. Turn -- right onto Stansbury Mill Road for an eighth of a mile. Farm is on right. Open through Dec. 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Timber Hill Farm. (410) 343-1940. About 4 miles southeast of Maryland Line. From I-83, take Old York Road (Exit 36, Route 439) east 4 miles to sign on left. Open through Dec. 23, weekdays, 9: 30 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m.; weekends, 8: 30 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m.

Carroll County

Country Green Tree Farm. (410) 876-2838. About 6 miles north of Reisterstown. From Beltway take the Northwest Expressway (I-795) to Exit 9B (Route 140W) for 3 miles. Take a left at Gamber Road (Route 91S). Go 2 miles, then turn right onto Deer Park Road for 3 miles. Turn left onto Bird View Road and go 1 mile. Farm is on left. Open Dec. 6 through Dec. 24, Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Davidson Christmas Tree Farm. (410) 374-2348. About 6 miles north of Reisterstown. From Beltway take the Northwest Expressway (I-795) to Exit 9B (Route 140W) for 3 miles. Turn right onto Emory Road (Route 91) for 3 miles, then turn left onto Emory Church Road for 1 mile to sign. Farm is on right. Open through Dec. 22. Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekdays by appointment.

Feldhof Farm. (410) 876-7680. About 6 miles east of Westminster. Take Route 27N out of Westminster 2.5 miles. Take Route 482 East for .7 miles. Turn right on Leisters Church Road for 2.2 miles, turn left on Neudecker Road for half mile to farm on right. Open through Dec. 22, Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fra-Mar Tree Farm. (410) 374-2868. Route 30, Hampstead. Take Shilo Road, 1 mile west of Hampstead, to 3601 Shilo Road. Tree sign and farm on left. Open through Dec. 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Green Valley Farm. (410) 795-5820. Two miles east of Taylorsville or 7 miles west of Eldersburg. From Liberty Road (Route 26) turn onto Woodbine Road, go .9 miles, turn left onto Buckhorn. Farm is quarter mile on left. Open through Dec. 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Hirt Tree Farm. (410) 876-8839. About 2 miles south of Westminster. From Route 140 take Route 97 south 1.7 miles, left on Hook Road 1.2 miles, left on Arnold Road half mile to sign and farm on right. Open daily 9 a.m.-4: 30 p.m. through Dec. 24.

JCK Christmas Tree Farm. (410) 346-7597 or (410) 876-TREE (Baltimore). About 8 miles west of Westminster. From Westminster, take Route 140 West 8 miles to Mayberry Road, turn right and follow signs 2.5 miles to farm. Open through Dec. 22, Tuesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Otterdale View Christmas Tree Farm. (410) 775-0176. Eleven miles west of Westminster. From Route 140, take Route 31 South for half mile, turn right to Uniontown Road for 9 miles, west on Middleburg Road for 2 miles to farm on right. Open through Dec. 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Pine Valley Farms. (410) 795-8314. About 4 miles north of Woodbine. From I-70, take Route 97 North about 5 miles, turn left on Fannie Dorsey Road for 1.1 miles to farm entrance on right. Open through Dec. 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Putman Tree Farm. (410) 876-1380 or (410) 875-0865. Five miles south of Westminster. From I-795 take Route 140 North for 11 miles; left on 97, south for 5 miles; left on Nicodemus Road, 1 mile to sign on left. Open through Dec. 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Quality Evergreens. (410) 374-1499. From Manchester take Route 30 North to the Pennsylvania/Maryland line. Turn left onto Garrett Road. Follow signs 1/2 mile to farm. Open through Dec. 22 weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Seven Springs Farm & Old Barn Greenery. (410) 239-3538. From Westminster, Route 27 North to right on Route 30, left at York Street, 3/4 mile to right on Millers Station Road. From Baltimore, call for directions. Open through Dec. 24, 9 a.m.-dark daily.

Sewell's Farm. (410) 756-4397. From Westminster use Route 140 West through Taneytown. Right onto Harney Road for half mile; farm on left. Open through Dec. 23, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Silver Meadow Farm. (301) 829-9198. About 6 miles north of Mount Airy. From I-70 take Route 27 North for 4 miles. Turn right on Gillis Falls Road for 2 miles. Turn left on Davis Road for half mile to sign on right. Open through Dec. 23, weekdays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Silver Run Farm. (301) 829-0604. About 7 miles northwest of Westminster. From Westminster take Route 97 for 7 miles to sign right. Open through Dec. 23, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Thomas Tree Farm. (410) 374-9538. About a third mile north of Manchester. From Beltway, take Northwest Expressway (I-795) to Reisterstown. Take Route 30 North through Manchester to farm sign on right. Open through Dec. 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Harford County

Applewood Farm. (410) 836-1140. About 4 miles east of Whiteford. From I-95 take Route 22 North 5 miles. Turn right on Route 136 for 11 miles. Turn right on Prospect Road for 2.5 miles to farm on right. Open till Dec. 22, 9 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. weekends.

Deer Creek Valley Tree Farm. (410) 692-9793. Located eight miles west of Route 1 and 1 mile past Route 646 or 1.5 miles east of Route 165. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends only through Dec. 7 then 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily Dec. 14 through Dec. 22.

Environmental Evergreens. (410) 457-4766. About 12 miles north Bel Air. From I-95 take Havre de Grace Exit 89 (Route 155) west toward Bel Air for 3 miles; right on Darlington Road (Route 161) for 5 miles; right on Route 623 for 1 mile to stop sign; turn left; farm is on left. Or, take Route 1 north of Bel Air 12 miles, left on Berkley Road two-thirds mile. Open through Dec. 24, weekdays, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Family Tree Farm. (410) 734-6146 or (410) 734-7702. Four miles west of Aberdeen; take I-95 to Exit 85 or from Bel Air take Route 22 East 5 miles to Churchville Cross Roads of routes 22 and 136, farm sign 100 yards east of intersection on Route 22. Open through Dec. 23, weekdays, noon to 5 p.m.; weekends, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Good Endeavor Farm. (410) 679-4086. About 1 mile north of Joppatowne. From U.S. 40 North, turn left on Joppa Farm Road to a right on Philadelphia Road (Route 7) for quarter mile to left on Bulls Lane; farm at end. Open through Dec. 22, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Hale Tree Farm. (410) 557-7892. About 7 miles northwest of Jarrettsville. Take I-83 Exit 36 (Route 439E) 7 miles, left on Route 23N 2 miles to farm on right. Open through Dec. 24, weekends, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Hickory Hill Tree Farm. Mark Rosenberg. (410) 838-TREE (Harford County), (410) 879-TREE (Baltimore). About 6 miles north of Bel Air. Take I-95 North to Exit 80. Turn left on Route 543 for 12 miles to farm on right. Open through Dec. 24, weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Hickory Tree Farm North. (410) 838-TREE (Harford County), (410) 879-TREE (Baltimore). About 2 miles north of Hickory Hill Tree Farm (see previous listing). Signs and parking lot on left. Open through Dec. 22, everyday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jarrettsville Nurseries. (410) 838-3966 or (410) 557-9630. About 5 miles north of Jarrettsville. From Jarrettsville, take Route 165 North for 5 miles. Turn right to St. Clair Bridge Road for half mile, then to farm. Open through Dec. 22, weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m.; weekends, 9 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m.

Maranatha Tree Farm. (410) 692-2517. About 7 miles southeast of the town of Maryland Line. From I-83 take Exit 36 East, turn left on Route 439 for 5.5 miles, then left on Dry Branch-Jolly Acres Roads, half mile to sign on right. Open through Dec. 22, 9 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. daily except Monday.

Walnut Grove Tree Farm. (410) 557-7737. About 1 mile north of Upper Cross Roads. Take U.S. 1 North to Fallston Road (Route 152) West 6 miles. Turn right on Baldwin Mill Road (Route 165) and go north 1 mile. Turn left on Charles Street for 1 mile. Then right onto Walnut Grove Tree Farm Lane. Open through Dec. 24, Thursday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Howard County

Greenway Farms. (410) 442-2388. Take I-70 West toward Frederick. Take Exit 76 (Route 97 North) for quarter mile to first right onto Monticello Drive. Follow 1 mile to Reps Road. Farm is on left. Open through Dec. 17, weekdays, noon to 5 p.m.; weekends, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Larriland Farm. (410) 442-2605. Take I-70 West toward Frederick. Take Exit 73 to Route 94S toward Lisbon for 2.5 miles. Farm on left. Open through Dec. 22, Tuesday-Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m, Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Monday.

Timber Falls Tree Farm. (301) 829-1040 or (410) 788-7277. I-70 to Route 27 for 1 mile north, right on Twin Arch Road for one mile, then left on Old Frederick Road for 1/10 mile to farm on left. Open Dec. 7 through Dec. 22, weekends, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Triadelphia Lake View Farm. (410) 489-4460. From Olney 8 miles north on Route 97 to Roxbury Road. 2 miles to Triadelphia Road. Make right 2 miles to farm. From Route 32, turn on Ten Oaks Road. Make first right. 3.5 miles to farm. From Route 29 turn on Route 216 toward Clarksville. Go 8 miles and make left on Triadelphia Mill Road. 4 miles to farm on left. Open through Dec. 25, Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Pub Date: 12/05/96

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