- Erik Pauze is the head gardener at Rockefeller Center and chooses the Christmas tree every year.
- He maintains the gardens on a daily basis and is always on the lookout for the perfect tree when he travels.
- Once it’s chosen, he takes care of it until it’s time to transport it to New York and decorate it.
As I said, this essay is based on a conversation with Erik Pauze, the head gardener at Rockefeller Center in New York City. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve worked at Rockefeller Center for more than 30 years. My team of six and I take care of the beautiful gardens that you see and visit around the property. We look after the more than 20 roof gardens and terraces as well as most of the lobbies.
I have another big responsibility: I choose the perfect tree for Christmas every year.
I look at dozens of trees throughout the year. Some are submitted online by potential donors, others I toast on my own travels. I always take the long way home from anywhere and look out for a Norway spruce – the most common tree species we choose. I already have some trees in mind that could be selected for next year or even the year after.
I understand the enormous responsibility. The arrival of the Rockefeller Christmas tree officially heralds the holiday season in New York City.
There is one important trait I look for when looking for the perfect tree: a tree that you want in your living room, but on a much larger scale
It has to have that beautiful, perfect shape, and most importantly, it has to look good for the kids turning the corner at 30 Rock. The tree must immediately put a big smile on their faces.
Once I find the tree, I visit it several times, no matter where it is, to water it, feed it, and measure it. Moving the tree is in and of itself a process that can take months to plan and execute — from wrapping each branch so it doesn’t bend or break, to compressing it down width so it’s suitable for travel. This preparation process alone takes seven to ten days.
Depending on where the tree is located, a temporary access road for the crane may be required and electrical wiring may need to be relocated temporarily. After the tree is felled, it is craned onto a flatbed truck and begins its journey to Rockefeller Center. The route of the tree is public so people can follow it.
This year’s tree is a Norway spruce that is 82 feet high, 50 feet in diameter and weighs about 14 tons
The 2022 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was donated from their estate by the Lebowitz family of Glens Falls, New York. When it arrived in New York on November 12th, a team of 30 to 35 people and I set about decorating it so that it would be ready for the November 30th tree lighting ceremony.
From the moment we chop down the tree in town, to the moment it arrives at Rockefeller Center and it’s finally lit, the joy it brings to those who see it, the smiles it puts on children’s faces – those are the moments I love most about work.
I don’t like anything about my job. I have the best job out there.