Before December 1978, the Mallonees were like many American families. Each holiday season, they hung Christmas decorations, entertained family and friends and bought a Christmas tree. Then Karen, the family matriarch and a physical education teacher at Garrison Forest School, considered how wasteful it seemed to purchase a Christmas tree only to put it out at the curb a few weeks later.
So, that year Karen and her husband, Lucky, a social studies teacher at The Park School, decided that every year they’d plant their Christmas tree in their half-acre lot in the Pimlico neighborhood after the festivities were over. “The two of us go out and dig the hole in the fall— or rather my husband does. I never dig the hole,” says Mallonee. “I tell him where to dig, and a trash can fills the hole until a few days after Christmas when we plant the tree.” More than 30 years— and some 30 trees— later, the majority of the evergreens still stand along the driveway. But as space got tight there, the Mallonees started planting in their backyard. “We are starting to run out of room,” says Mallonee. “It’s going to be an interesting puzzle to figure out where to put future trees.”
As the years went by, the couple had a daughter, Essie, and a son, Ace, who quickly became part of the custom. Essie, now a graduate student at Towson University and a teacher at Gilman School, rolls her eyes as she describes planting the trees. But it’s evident from the wide grin that spreads across her face that, if nothing else, she appreciates the sentimental value of the tradition.
The Mallonees generally buy their trees from Home Depot, but they have collected a fair number from Valley View Farms as well. So far, only three have perished due to harsh weather. The Douglas fir they planted last year now stands at about 5 feet tall. Meanwhile, the Douglas fir the Mallonees planted in 1978 towers at more than 50 feet. Although Karen and Lucky are both fond of the Douglas fir and white pines, their favorite is the Norway Spruce.
“I wish I had kept a map of which trees we planted which years. There is a definite attachment to them,” says Mallonee. Then she adds, laughing: “These trees are like my children. When we move, there may have to be a rider on the deed that states that only under penalty of death may the trees be cut down.”