How Forest City Tree Helped Make It “Fit To Be Tied“
After a worldwide search in early 1998, culminating in a helicopter search conducted by Rockefeller Center Gardens Manager David Murbach, a 30″ diameter, 75′ tall Norway Spruce was located in Richfield, OH, the first to originate in America’s heartland.
Purchased in 1938 by Ethel and Adolph Szitar as their family Christmas tree, the 4′ tall tree was then planted outside their home, where they watched it grow for 60 years.
We were called upon to recommend treatments to make the large Norway Spruce (Picea abies) selected as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree as healthy, vigorous, and flexible as possible prior to its removal in early November.
We advised and provided a root therapy treatment consisting of fertilizer, mycorrhizae inoculants, and bio-stimulants. In addition, three (3) times during the season we applied 1000 gallons of water to the root system. The building up of the root system allowed for maximum absorption of water from the soil.
In early June of ’98, our crew pruned the tree for shaping purposes as directed by the Rockefeller Center representatives. An aerial lift bucket truck was used to perform the cosmetic pruning around the periphery of the tree’s branches. Dead limbs were pruned from the interior, at the base of the tree.
Symmetrical perfection is demanded of a tree that is annually witnessed by millions of holiday visitors. Our pruning helped enhance this quality.
Our root therapy treatments helped prevent desiccation following its removal, and during the process of transporting it from Richfield, OH to Rockefeller Center in New York City, and throughout the course of the holiday season.
Ninety percent of the trees that have gone up at Rockefeller Center have been Norway spruces, in part because their branches are limber enough to withstand being trussed for transport. The “corseting” of the tree is an essential component of delivering the tree in perfect condition, intact and unblemished.
Torsilieri, Inc. of New Jersey individually wrapped 3/4 of the bottom branches in burlap, then two-ply twine, then pulled up and secured them to the trunk. They devised a unique hinge system for bending large branches, some 4-6″ in diameter, in a manner which allows a dense and massive tree like this 7-ton, 40-foot wide, Norway Spruce to be taken from the field. Approximately 200 branches were treated in this manner.
Our root therapy treatments helped prepare the tree so it could withstand the “corsetting” with minimal impact.
Torsilieri’s crew which came to tie-up and remove the tree commented that the tree was “the most flexible and easiest tree to tie-up that they’d ever worked with.”
The tree was cut down in mid-November, 1998 and transported by truck to the Cleveland Hopkins Airport.
After a brief send-off ceremony featuring the Kent State University Marching Band
and Cleveland’s Mayor, the tree was loaded on the world’s largest cargo plane, a Russian Antonov AN-124 with a 124-foot long cargo hold, and flown to Kennedy Airport, the first tree to be flown to New York, rather than transported by truck.
Our root therapy treatments helped the tree avoid desiccation and withstand the transport process to Rockefeller Center with minimal impact.
The same tree which brought so much joy to the Szitar family when it was their family Christmas tree back in 1938, sixty years later brought that same joy to the people who visited Rockefeller Center. Root therapy and pruning treatments helped prepare this tree for its transformation to “America’s Christmas Tree,”, viewed by millions in person and many more millions through national television coverage.
In December ‘98, the tree made its official “debut” on NBC during a nationally-telecast lighting ceremony. Adorned with over 26,000 multi-colored lights strung over five miles of wire, the tree was viewed in person by approximately 2,500,000 spectators during the holiday season.
In February 2000, the Forest City Tree Protection Co., Inc. was presented with the National Arborist Associations Excellence in Arboriculture Judges Award for their efforts in preparing the 1998 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
We believe, the limited role we played, in some small measure contributed to the grace and beauty of this magnificent Norway spruce tree.
“The tree is a gift to the world. I see it as a message of goodwill and peace on Earth.” – - David Murbach, Head Gardener, Rockefeller Center