Holiday lights keep landscapers busy this season

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By Vicky Gits

It’s that time of year — when the pleasure of seeing lights from rooftop to treetop all over town is frequently overwhelmed by the pain of climbing ladders and unwinding tangled strings of mini-bulbs.

Decorating is one of those things that seem like a good idea in theory. But who has the time?

That’s when the summertime landscape companies such as Lam Tree Service and J.P. Total come to the rescue.

For those with $200 to $5,000 to spend, J.P. Total of Evergreen will do it all. It buys the lights, puts them up, and removes, replaces and stores them.

Examples of J.P. Total's work are all over Genesee and Upper Bear Creek Road on lawns and tall trees. The company declines to reveal the addresses for privacy reasons.

Safari Tree and Landscape, which has about 500 accounts in the Evergreen area, also handles Christmas décor, but most of its holiday work is for homeowner associations in the Westminster and Broomfield areas.

Lam Tree Service of Evergreen, which has a bucket truck, specializes in decorating tall trees, such as the one erected at the Lake House every year.

What people want year after year is pretty much the same, said John Pfeiff of J.P. Total Lawn and Property Maintenance. “They want the same lights they put up when they were 10 years old,” he said.

People are not seeking out black lights or weird colors.

“It’s still very traditional,” Pfeiff said. Mostly, decorating in Evergreen is about putting up white mini-lights and icicle lights.

Pfeiff likes the old-style lights that were common before the energy-saving LED lights along. “The old lights just seem to give off a more true white light,” he said.

The best example of his current work can be seen at the entrance to Dave Graham’s new Cub Creek Ranch subdivision south of Evergreen off Little Cub Creek Road.

“It’s all white mini-lights, except for six LED wreaths. Very classy,” Pfeiff said. “You could land an airplane there.”

J.P. Total also did the lights circling the tall spruce trees at Bergen Village.

One trend that is making inroads in lighting styles is a mix of orange and white mini-lights called “Dreamsicle,” a color combo originating in warm states like California, Pfeiff said.

J.P. Total has been designing and delivering lights to homes since 1992 and has a customer base of 55 to 60 homes. Pfeiff has been selling pumpkins and Christmas trees out of the lot off Highway 74 and Meadow Drive in Evergreen for 16 years. He has been working tree lots since he was 13 years old and living in New Jersey.

In the summer, the company concentrates on lawn maintenance, landscaping and irrigation. Pfeiff got into holiday decorating because it was a way to keep crews busy and keep in touch with customers the rest of the year.

J.P. Total uses only commercial-grade lights. Lights take a beating outdoors and have to be replaced every three years.

Pfeiff said a few customers cut back on lights because of the economy, but the service is still very much in demand.

“The thing is, we come and it gets done. People are very busy. People up here work very hard. They didn’t get their houses by sitting around. They value their family time … and they don’t have to pull a Chevy Chase,” as in National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” movie.

‘Definitely cutting back’

Like J.P. Total, Lam Tree Service also buys lights and installs, removes and stores yard decorations for the year.

People are definitely cutting back this year, said owner Mike Goldblatt. The company has done about 22 houses this year, compared to 30 last year.

“It’s all about not getting up on a ladder on a cold day and slipping and falling. It’s about dealing with the frustration of figuring out which lights are going to work,” Goldblatt said.

Lam Tree really only has the month of November to do decorating work, because it is too busy trimming trees in September and October. Typically, five or six workers tackle a big decoration job, and smaller jobs take about three.

What do people like?

“Up here, people typically want white lights,” said Ryan Reed, operations manager with Lam Tree Service. “Very few get colors.”

Lam Tree excels at decorating high up trees and getting the lights to go around a tree in a perfectly even pattern.

“The trees (we do) don’t look like someone just stood on the ground and threw the strings into the branches,” Reed said.

“In a bucket, you have both hands free, and it’s still not an easy job. I have no idea how they (J.P. Total) do that (without a bucket truck.)”

The most prominent example of Lam Tree’s work is the Genesee Town Center.

“It takes five guys two days,” Reed said.

The company also does the tree at the gate of The Island subdivision in Bergen Park.

The most difficult of all jobs is decorating the community tree at the Lake House.

“It’s all glass, C-9 bulbs, the big old-fashioned bulbs,” Reed said.

Needless to say, when Christmas comes, Reed is not about to hang lights on his own house.

“My wife is pretty lucky if the tree has lights,” Reed said.

Reed is really happier when Christmas is over.

“The best time is January when the lights are down and we get to leave town.”