Our father started planting Christmas Trees in 1950 and started our nursery business in 1955. It was not long after planting the first trees that we saw how important genetics are in Christmas tree production.
The first Scotch Pine planted were from a Polish source. These trees turned yellow. The second source of Scotch Pine we tried were from France. These trees maintained their green color but were crooked and twisted. This is when we realized the importance of genetics. We started growing Scotch Pine from the Spanish Guadaramma and found it to be the best source. We grew this selection to Christmas tree maturity then selected the best 2% and set it into an orchard. The offspring off this orchard is superior to the offspring of the wild stands.
In the 1960s, we started to grow Balsam Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, and Fraser Fir. We started by using selections from the National Forests. The first selections for Douglas Fir came from San Isabel, Kaibab, and Coconino. After we started planting, we noticed great variations within the National Forests. The Douglas Fir from Kaibab had excellent color, but became droopy after shearing and never pulled a straight leader. The offspring from San Isabel had bottoms that faded and recovered poorly from frost damage. Coconino had better color and shape. Edgar Palpant started collecting seed from other National Forest stands, put them out, and led us to the Lincoln source. At this time, we started collecting seed from Coconino, Coronado, Coeur d’Alene and Lincoln. We planted them in test lots and grew them to Christmas Tree maturity. The test lots agreed with Edgar Palpant, Lincoln was the best source available for Douglas Fir production on the east coast. We then found a tree within the forest, which we named #111. This out preformed the offspring of the general population of the trees within the National Forest. This indicated that specific selection of trees within the forest is crucial. We have an orchard of Douglas Fir that was grown from the first selection from the wild. The plants from this orchard are only available when we get a cone crop.
The Colorado Blue Spruce we started growing came from San Isabel. We also started collecting seed from Santa Fe and San Juan. We tested the San Juan seed we collected against San Juan seed from a commercial seed collector. The results were impressive about 70-75% of the commercial seed were Blue in color, while the seed we collected was about 80-85% blue. In our first selection, we gained 10% over the commercial source. In 1966, we set out our Colorado Blue Spruce orchard; the original source is believed to be San Isabel.
We originally started with three sources of Fraser Fir: Mount Rogers, RoanMountain, and Balsam Richmond. Mt.Rogers was eliminated because of fine needles, weak twigs, and other shearing considerations. The Balsam Richmond source is believed to be the original source of our 240 Fraser Orchard. We chose the best 10% of the Christmas tree plantings to be set as the orchard.
Then we collected seed from RoanMt. and established two seed orchards. The 260 orchard is from the three best parent plants we found in all of Roan. The 260’s have been in production for 15 years. They have proven to have great quality
Canaan Fir from the wild stands varies greatly in quality. We selected the top 10% of our first planting of Canaan Fir and set it in an Orchard. The first plants from this orchard are 5 years in the field and are looking great!
To explain our classification system and grading system:
Commercial-seed that we bought through wholesale seed collectors.
*Commercial-seed that we collected out of squirrel caches, which are located under high quality trees.
Hand Picked-seed, which has been hand picked from the parent tree and represents the top four to five percent of the national forest in shape, quality and color.
Our goal is to offer you the highest quality, genetically superior plant that you can buy.
Berkey's Nursery, 44251 Rogers Rd, PO Box 215, Spartansburg, PA 16434