Cloverdale’s only Christmas tree farmer says, ‘It’s not as easy as people think’

Running a Christmas tree farm has an element of science, an element of good stress relief

Armstrong Creek Christmas Tree Farm is easy to pass by, located down the quiet back road of 190th Street, hidden just around the corner from the busy Potter’s Nursery.

After all, in the early weeks of November, tree-farming hobbyist Peter Bladt is still getting ready for the season. Close to 3,000 trees, hand-pruned back in August, are growing contentedly in their fields — a different layout than a typical tree farm, as Bladt’s plots of firs and spruce are nestled between woodsy valleys and cedar trees.

“It’s not a normal field; it’s not a normal operation,” Bladt said.

Bladt and his wife have been growing Christmas trees on their 5.5 acre Cloverdale property since 1995. Every winter, between 300 and 400 families wander down a path that meanders through Bladt’s back acres, crossing over a burbling salmon stream before passing by two of Bladt’s three tree fields.

“Some people of course complain that they have to walk so far for a Christmas tree,” Bladt said, “but you’ll never forget this tree: cutting it, working hard to get it back to the car.”

Of course, in November, those fields aren’t quite ready for visitors. Bladt still needs to chop down a number of unhappy trees before the start of the holiday tree season — a by-product of Bladt’s natural approach to tree farming, where he doesn’t spray the trees with pesticides throughout the season.

“If I’m a big farmer, and I’m trying to make a living off of it, you have to use different practices,” he said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

The Noble Firs tend to get root rot, a fungus which attacks tree roots in poorly drained soil. Many trees become favourite targets of black-tailed deer during the rutting season, when the deer rub their antlers against the trees, shearing them of branches and bark. Some trees succumb to aphids, and others died during the summer drought.

Last year, Bladt had to cut down around 100 trees; he expects it to be more this year.

“You have all these challenges; it’s not as easy as people think,” he said.

“Like I said, it’s just my hobby. But growing Christmas trees is a science.”

Over the last 22 years, Bladt has found a couple of Christmas tree varieties that can grow well on his property: the Grand Fir, a strongly scented evergreen that is native to B.C.’s coast; the Norway Spruce, a fast-growing tree with wide spaces between its branches; and the Nordmann Fir, a Northeastern Russian tree that Bladt thinks will become the most popular variety on his farm.

“The public at large is not really familiar with that Nordmann Fir type,” he said. “It’s the number one Christmas tree selling in Europe though.”

According to Bladt, Nordmanns have “incredible needle retention.” He even told one story of a woman who kept her Nordmann Fir until July 1 and re-decorated the tree for each new holiday — although by then the needles had all turned brown.

Someday soon, Bladt expects to only be selling those three types of trees. But next year, he may not have any trees to sell at all.

“I have huge, I call them holes,” he said. “You want trees from the seedling stage all the way up to the 10-footers.”

Each year, Bladt plants 350 seedlings to make up for the trees that had been cut down on his farm that holiday season. In March and April, he plants the two-year-old trees around his farm. For the next five to 10 years, he watches as they grow to the popular six-foot height and then sell as Christmas trees.

For five years in a row, Bladt was unable to nurture enough seedlings. One year, the seedlings died because of drought; another year, the rain brought on mildew and death for the seedlings. And two years saw administrative issues with his suppliers that prevented Bladt from getting new trees at all.

“This might be our last Christmas season for two or three years to come,” Bladt said.

He’s already shortened the season this year — he normally opens the last weekend of November, but this year won’t open until the beginning of December — and is bringing in pre-cut trees from other farms.

“When they are all gone, probably next year there’s going to be no trees,” he said. “But I knew that.”

After all, 62-year-old Bladt isn’t in this for the business.

“It’s a nice hobby, good stress relief,” he said. “They don’t talk to me. They don’t poop. They don’t need feed.”

“I look forward to retiring someday, and just do this.”

ChristmasChristmas treeCloverdale

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Peter Bladt has between 2,500 and 3,000 trees on his South Cloverdale farm, but likely won’t be able to open the next four holiday seasons. Several years of drought, flooding and administrative issues have impacted his supply of tall trees, which means it will take several more years to grow. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Just Posted

A total of 6,967 vote-by-mail packages were issued in Delta North during the 2020 provincial election, representing just over 18 per cent of the 37,998 registered voters in the riding. As of Thursday, Oct. 29, 3,825 certification envelopes have been received by officials in the riding ahead of the final count on Nov. 6. (Liam Harrap photo)
Over 3,800 mail-in, absentee ballots received in Delta North to date

6,967 vote-by-mail packages issued in the riding, representing over 18 per cent registered voters

Strawberry Hill Hall is being renovated and moved to another location on its existing corner lot in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey’s historic Strawberry Hill Hall being moved a few metres in $1.2M reno project

Childcare spaces coming to corner lot where hall has stood for 111 years

The peninsula’s Community Christmas Day Dinner at White Rock Baptist Church – seen here in 2019 – has been cancelled for 2020, because of pandemic-inspired limitations on gatherings. (File photo)
Annual Community Christmas dinner ‘just not possible’ this year

Organizers vow that 40 years-plus Semiahmoo Peninsula tradition will return, post-COVID

(James Smith photo)
North Delta crime beat, week of Oct. 18

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

(Delta Police Department photo)
South Delta crime beat, week of Oct. 18

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks Thursday (Oct. 29) during a news conference held at Fraser Health office, in video posted to Facebook. (Photo: Government of British Columbai/Facebook)
COVID-19 ‘disproportionately’ affecting Fraser Health: Henry

Health region has about 75 per cent of B.C.’s active cases

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Most Read