Day Trips

J P Seven Christmas Trees is known for being a good distance out in the country and for having wonderfully fragrant and thick trees

Looking for the perfect tree
Looking for the perfect tree (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

J P Seven Christmas Trees, between Hearne and Bryan in Texas, looks like a field of giant green caterpillars with pointed spines snaking across the rolling hills. Some-where among the neat rows of conical trees is the perfect holiday tree waiting to be cut down by an appreciative family.

The drought this year hasn't affected the trees as much as expected, says J.P. Van Buijtenen. After a dry spell late in the summer, the farm got 5 inches of rain. Then, Hurricane Ike blew through in September without doing much damage. He doesn't irrigate, other than watering new trees by hand, so Van Buijtenen must rely on Mother Nature.

The well-timed rain prompted enough new growth that Van Buijtenen had to trim the trees a third time this year. Usually he only prunes the trees in May and July to maintain the symmetry of the Virginia pines. That means shaping about 1,000 trees on his 20 acres. It's a lot of physical work for a job that was supposed to be part-time on weekends. "I thoroughly enjoy it, though," the retired Texas Forest Service employee and Texas A&M professor says.

J P Seven Christmas Trees is known for being a good distance out in the country and for having wonderfully fragrant and thick trees. Van Buijtenen blames both traits on his original mistake of getting in the Christmas-tree business. "When I first looked over the hill toward the river, it was just beautiful," he says. He knew right away that it was the ideal place to grow perfect Christmas trees.

Thirty years ago, he picked the spot in the Navasota River valley because the deep sandy soil was just right for growing trees. His was one of the first commercial Christmas-tree farms in Texas. Most retail tree farms are within 10 miles of a metropolitan area. He's nearly twice that far from Bryan.

"Back when we started, we didn't know anything about growing Christmas trees in Texas," Van Buijtenen says. "But neither did anyone else."

The farm offers few frills other than a beautiful country drive and a hayride through the field of dreams once you get there. It's fun to watch the families scatter among evergreen trees like an army of ants critiquing the strengths and weakness of each bush until they can find the one they can all agree upon.

J P Seven Christmas Trees is 15 miles northeast of Bryan off Highway 21. For directions, go to www.texaschristmastrees.net/jpseventrees.htm. The farm can be reached at 979/846-7916. The field is open the Saturday after Thanksgiving and on following weekends from 9am to 5pm through Dec. 14.

For a list of other Christmas-tree farms in the state, go to www.texaschristmastrees.net. There are more than 120 family-owned tree farms around the state selling the freshest trees possible – ones that you cut yourself.


908th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

J P Seven Christmas Trees, J.P. Van Buijtenen, Christmas tree farms

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