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Nolan Guthrie

The Zamzows guy talks Christmas trees

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Growing up in Gresham, Ore., Nolan Guthrie had a particular dislike for gardening—due in large part to the fact that his father loved it so much.

"He was so into landscaping that I looked at it as a chore," said Guthrie. "But take a look at me now."

After mowing countless lawns and going to college to learn landscape design, Guthrie joined Zamzows—he'll mark his 13th anniversary with the company next month. Working his way up the company ladder from the warehouse to floor sales to manager of the Chinden Boulevard location, Guthrie is now Zamzows' manager of social media and online marketing. He also hosts the Zamzows Garden Show on KBOI News Talk 670 every Saturday, fielding a variety of inquiries, many of which—this time of year—are about Christmas trees.

You're a natural on the radio.

Really? After the second time I hosted the show, I listened to a tape of myself and I sounded like the "Schweddy Balls" skit on Saturday Night Live.

Rule No. 1: Don't listen to yourself. It will drive you crazy.

I had to be more normal. Now, it's the real me. [I'm] more humorous and people respond.

How does a farm qualify to supply Christmas trees to Zamzows?

Over the years, we've toured a number of nurseries—thousands of acres of farmland—in Oregon. Some of those farms are huge because they ship tons of trees to the East Coast. Those farms are cutting their trees weeks and weeks and weeks in advance, and the trees lie on the ground for a long time. Zamzows is looking for that farm that is small enough to supply a quality product but just the right size to provide all of the trees our customers need. A Christmas tree provider can't just have one farm—they need to circulate from various locations as they harvest over the years. It's also really important to us that we check out the farm's soil quality and how they care for the soil.

When do Christmas tree sales peak?

My guess is that this year, it will be the weekend of Dec. 10 and 11.

You mentioned that Zamzows turns to Oregon for its Christmas trees, so can I assume Idaho has the advantage of getting a pretty fresh harvest?

About 90 percent of U.S. Christmas trees are grown in Oregon. So, our transportation costs are not as high as they are for trees that are shipped back East.

Walk us through the different options for trees.

A lot of tree farms grow the Douglas Fir: they're cheaper and they grow to full size quicker but they dry out fast. The next step up is the Noble Fir. I prefer that, mostly because of the smell. The Douglas Fir smells citrus-y, but Noble Fir smells... well, it just smells more Christmas-y. The Noble Fir has a blueish, silvery color, and its boughs give you more spacing for decorations. One step up from that is the Grand Fir, but we stopped carrying Grand Firs a few years back because they're pretty spendy. We started carrying something called the Nordmann. It's a pretty high quality Christmas tree but more affordable. The needles are green and waxy, and it holds water like crazy.

Speaking of which, what's the trick for not drying out the tree?

When you buy it, we give it a special cut. After the tree is first harvested, the sap drains down and creates a cap on the bottom of the trunk, preventing it from taking water. So, when we cut it again at the bottom, get it home and get it into water as soon as you can.

There are some commercial products on the market that promise to keep Christmas trees from drying out.

I've even heard of some people putting aspirin into the water to supposedly open up the capillaries of the tree. I've never done any of that. The trick is to keep the water reservoir full, especially in the first two days that you put your tree up. Keep that reservoir full, and you should be good.

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