The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting will be Saturday, Nov. 28. Despite the four-year drought, the Idyllwild Christmas Tree — a sequoia at Jo’An’s — is well and looking forward to another holiday season.
The drought has raised concerns about the tree’s health and Phyllis Mueller, chair of the Soroptimist’s Tree Lighting Committee, has been actively nursing the tree through this dry period with the help of many local people and groups.
One of the first steps was organizing a “Save the Sequoia” initiative to raise funds in order to undertake the steps necessary to protect this sacred resource.
Local water districts have and will donate water to protect the tree. Over the past couple of years, Pine Cove Water District has provided several loads of water. Last week, Idyllwild Water District announced it plans to provide water, about 2,000 gallons a month according to Mueller, who also said Fern Valley Water District plans to contribute another load of water.
“If that is not enough, we’ll supplement with more,” Mueller stated. “Jo’An’s has also provided water and been instrumental in nurturing the tree.”
In addition, John Huddleston, certified arborist, has been monitoring and working on the tree.
“Overall it’s healthy, but it needs water,” he said. “We’ve spread [50 yards] of new mulch under the tree. And there is new needle growth.”
He regularly monitors the soil moisture near the tree. Early this year, the results of a soil analysis were used to modify the ground pH and apply more nutrients near the tree’s roots.
However, Huddleston is concerned that the sequoia may have a disease. He has sent some samples to a laboratory for testing and should have results early this month. Two of the other nearby sequoias seem to be suffering more than the Christmas Tree and two others appear in good health. If his suspicion is confirmed, Huddleston said there are cures and treatments, which will eliminate the problem and protect the tree.
In addition, Mueller is planning to acquire a water storage tank and a watering system to provide water to the tree on a more consistent basis. She hopes to accomplish this step by the middle of October.
At the Tree Lighting, Sandii Castleberry will be the emcee and Diane Burt and friends will return again this year, too.