NEW YORK - The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is arguably the world's most famous. And the man in charge of finding it, and taking care of it is Rockefeller Center's Head Gardener, Erik Pauze. The Westchester native recalls his love of trees began when he was in 6th Grade.
"Started with planting twigs at my aunt's house. And i'd always go back and wonder where the trees were. Not till I was older she told me she ripped them out when I left," Pauze said.
He is certainly not in danger of anyone taking away the 72 foot tall, 45 foot wide Norway Spruce now gracing Rockefeller Plaza — at least not until January 7 when it is scheduled to come down.
Pauze has been head gardener since 1995, and took over tree-finding duties eight years ago. He spends the year searching for the perfect evergreen and often when he finds it, he simply knocks on the property owner's door, and explains that he would like their tree, to be "the" tree.
"Sometimes I get the belief right away but sometimes I have to prove to them a little bit. Do you have an idea or something? I do have an ID, and I carry a business card around every once in a while," Pauze said.
Once it arrives in Manhattan, the tree is kept in a pan that holds 90 gallons of water, which it can easily absorb in a day. And that's it. There are no special tree vitamins or additives.
"Straight water, straight good old New York City Water," Pauze said.
The requirements for picking just the right tree? Pauze looks for one in the 70 foot range, nice and full, with a shape that will look just right in front of 30 Rock. It's tough choice, but Pauze doesn't seem too stressed by it.
"I like to think that with the help of everybody else we are going to make every year look good," Pauze said.
The tree Pauze chooses will live on even after it leaves Midtown. The trunk will be milled and donated to Habitat for Humanity to help their home building efforts, the rest will wind up as mulch in area parks. And then the search for next year's tree will begin.