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Christmas tree lots pop out over Metro Detroit

Ursula Watson
The Detroit News
Employee Chris Fedoronko, left, 17, of Livonia, carries this Balsam fir to be fresh cut before Kevin DeVries, center, 34, his daughter, Michaela DeVries, 2, and wife and mother, Jennifer DeVries, 30, all of Wayne, buy the eight-foot-tall Christmas tree.

Although the smell of Thanksgiving dinner is still lingering throughout kitchens and dining rooms, this for many is the weekend devoted to decorating for Christmas. A major decision for some families is to go real or artificial when it comes to the tree.

For the DeVries family of Wayne, the answer is simple.

"I will not have a fake tree in our house," said Jennifer DeVries, who was at the Fred Stempky Nursery, at 35175 Plymouth Road in Livonia Saturday morning. "You don't get the pine smell and it doesn't feel like Christmas with a fake tree."

DeVries was at the nursery with her husband Kevin and their 2 year-old daughter, Michaela.

Tree lots around the Metro Detroit area are now open. The family owned Stempky Nursery, which opened just after Thanksgiving, has been in the Livonia area for 50 years.

"We are hoping to keep the tradition alive. It is such a fulfilling thing to see the people come back year after year," said owner Fred Stempky.

Stempky prices his trees from $20 up to $100 for a 12- to 14-foot tree. The Balsam fir is his most popular tree.

"It is less expensive than a Fraser fir, yet has a lot of the characteristics," he said. "Then the next popular tree is the Fraser fir because it is aromatic and holds its needles."

The DeVries decided on an 8-foot Balsam fir, which Stempky's staff helped secure on the roof of their truck.

"They have a couple of tree farms in Wayne but we came here last year," said DeVries. "They had a lot of good choices when we came. We figured we'd come back."

Stempky sells nine varieties of pine, fir and spruce trees.

"We grow them all because we have the seedlings," said Stempky. "We grow them in Cheboygan."

There is a tremendous amount of care that goes into growing trees he said and it is a long process.

"The fastest growing trees we have are 8 to 9 years-old with the oldest and bigger ones like the firs being close to 20 years old," said Stempky.

Stempky said he strives to grow his tree as organically as possibles but Michigan requires that he sprays pesticides to protect against such insects as the pine tree moth, the Japaneses beetle and gypsy moths.

He said he hopes to sell up to 700 trees at his tree lot and will sell 2,000 trees to nurseries and florists.

Folks can also purchase garland, tree stands and more at the nursery.

Long-time customer and Livonia resident James Colwell was at the nursery with his 14-year-old son Alex.

"He has really nice ropings," said Colwell. "I thought I'd get up on the roof while it is still a little warm."

And Stempky offers this tip of adding sugar to the water and a fresh cut at the bottom of the tree to extend the life of the tree.

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