BY Nicole A. Elliott Sentinel staff writer

The snow may not be plentiful, but area residents dreaming of a "traditional" white Christmas are pulling out their bow saws and taking families on annual excursions to find the perfect tree at local U-Cut stands.

At Henderberg’s Trees & Wreaths at 6580 Henderberg Road, off Old Oneida Road and east of Route 26 in south Rome, those wishing to pick out their own Christmas trees can take wagon rides out to the fields. Customers can find White Pine, Douglas Fir, Balsam Fir and several other varieties. Blue and White Spruce are available pre-cut.

"We also net all the trees after they’re cut so it’s easier to get them into your cars and homes," said co-owner Janice Henderberg.

This year, Henderberg said people have been getting a jump-start on the holiday season and were already visiting the tree stand before Thanksgiving.

"Surprisingly, people were out way ahead of Thanksgiving and we don’t usually open until after that," she said. "People seemed eager to get going with the Christmas season since Veterans’ Day. First they were buying wreaths, but now they’re getting trees."

Trees at Henderberg’s start at $15, and prices vary according to the size and variety.

"We have some ‘natural trees’ too — trees that are not sheered," Henderberg said. "Some people prefer that look."

The tree stand owner did advise anyone wishing to cut their own trees to dress warmly and appropriately for the occasion.

"Don’t wear high heels," she laughed. "My husband told me he can’t believe how many spiked heels he’s seen this year.

member that this year we’ve had more rain than snow, which has made the field very muddy. So you may want to wear your boots and not your Sunday’s best."

Those who are discouraged from dredging through the mud can always choose a pre-cut tree instead.

Because of the unseasonably mild weather, sales at Atanasoff’s Tree Farm at 6320 Walker Road in Deerfield are already ahead of last year, owner John Atanasoff said. Atanasoff boasts a "beautiful" selection

"This year because of the weather, people have been coming up and purchasing their trees early," Atanasoff said. "The next two weekends we expect to be big weekends, and we still have a great selection of firs — Fraser, Canaan and Concolor."

U-Cut trees start at $20, and pre-cut trees are also available from $20 to $40. And at Atanasoff’s, you won’t find any sickly-looking "Charlie Brown" trees, he said.

"People come up to me all the time and ask, ‘How does this tree hold its needles?’ And I say, ‘I’d never plant a Christmas tree that doesn’t hold a needle,’" Atanasoff laughed.

Another big question from customers is how they can extend the life of their trees.

"A big tree you can take down and leave it outside for as long as you want, but before you take it inside where there’s heat, you need to re-cut the bottom," Atanasoff advised. "That opens up the trunk so water can get up into your tree from the tree stand."

And how do you keep the tree from losing many needles?

"You always have to keep the water past the cut," he said. "I always water my tree in the morning and at night, and I usually keep my trees in the house about a month. If you let the water go below the cut, then the sap will seal off the tree so no water can get in. People always ask me too what I put in the water" to make the tree last longer, "and I tell them water, that’s all."

John Draper, owner of Trenton Trees, 8982 Trenton Falls-Prospect Road, said he and his family understand that choosing the perfect tree is a cherished tradition in many other families as well. Trenton Trees has U-Cut trees available at $25, pre-cuts at $30 and even potted trees at $20 for those who wish to save their special holiday memory for generations. Bow saws are available for those who don’t have their own. The tree stand will also do the shaking and baling of the trees after they’re cut, and assist with loading and tying.

"We’re offering Balsam Fir and Fraser Fir, as well as handmade wreaths," Draper said. "But the Fraser Fir seems to be the more popular choice this year."

George Joseph, owner of North Star Orchards at 4741 Route 233, Westmoreland, agreed that the Fraser Fir has been the top seller so far this season. Trees at North Star, U-Cut and pre-cut, start at around $20 and range between $60 to $65 for 12-footers.

"We offer seven different varieties, but clearly the trend has gone to the Fraser Fir — it’s three-quarters of what we sell," Joseph said. "They’re actually the perfect tree for their richness in color and silver undertones in the back of the needles. It’s subtle, plush yet strong."

North Star also offers a few Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine and White and Austrian Spruce.

"We’ve got a little mix of everything," Joseph said. "We were ready ahead of time and with any luck, we’ll be sold out of our trees by Dec. 15."