November 16, 2011

This tree's future is up in lights

Portland's arborist has had his eye on this blue spruce in South Portland for years now, and this holiday season it'll become the center of attention in Monument Square.

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Jeff Tarling had his eye on the Colorado blue spruce in his neighbor's yard for some time. As Portland's city arborist, he's always thinking, to some degree, about the perfect Christmas tree for Monument Square.

click image to enlarge

Carolyn Sivik and Molly pass by a blue spruce Tuesday at 89 Evans St. in South Portland. Owners Allan and Lori Huff agreed to donate the tree to the city of Portland for display at Monument Square for the holiday season.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

This year's tree is from Allan and Lori Huff of South Portland.

Tarling happened to be driving by their Evans Street home while Allan Huff was in the driveway. The arborist pulled over and asked whether they'd consider donating this year's tree.

"I have to be honest. I noticed the tree a few years ago and thought, 'Some day that will make a good tree,'" said Tarling, who first started searching for Monument Square Christmas trees in 1989.

That first meeting of the neighbors was fortuitous. It turned out that the Huffs were thinking the 55-foot tree was getting too tall and would pose a risk in a bad storm. In the last one, the tree was leaning close to the roof of the house.

"If the tree fell, it would fall on either our house or the neighbor's house," Allan Huff said Tuesday.

The Huffs' blue spruce -- a popular ornamental choice several decades ago -- met Tarling's criteria for size, shape, quality and accessibility.

The tree needs to be big enough -- roughly 45 to 60 feet tall --  so it isn't dwarfed by the expanse of Monument Square. And since the square has no corners to disguise a bad side, the tree can't be lopsided or otherwise flawed in shape.

In the past several years, a good number of candidates have suffered from needle cast -- a disease that thins foliage and is caused, in part, by wet springs and high humidity. Good air circulation, drainage and location spared the Huffs' tree from that problem.

The tree's location in the front yard makes it accessible for the crane that will have to place it on the flatbed truck.

Tarling put out the call for candidates around Labor Day and got about 25 responses, about half of which were disqualified because they were two-stemmed. He was on his way back to Portland after looking at one in Cape Elizabeth -- a nice specimen that wasn't quite straight and had some needle cast problems -- when he saw Allan Huff.

On Thursday morning, the forestry division of Portland's Department of Public Services will get the tree ready to for its trip to Monument Square. Keeley Crane Services of Portland and Shaw Brothers Construction of Gorham are donating the crane and transportation services.

There is no cost to the tree's donor for the removal.

The flatbed truck will carry the tree down Broadway, across the Casco Bay Bridge, down Commercial Street, up Franklin Street and along Congress Street to Monument Square. The tree is expected to arrive around 10:30 a.m.

The tree-lighting ceremony by Portland's Downtown District will take place Nov. 25 at 5:30 p.m.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:


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