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Christmas Display Flourishes At Nursery
The display of decorated and lighted trees at Morris Nursery known as Christmas Magic gets more complicated and colorful each year.

This year is no exception; it's a jaw dropper.

From the first step through the door, a kaleidoscope of color, fabric and even perfumed potpourri assault the senses as the visitor surveys row after row of artificial trees expertly decorated on different themes.

"We're lucky. We have a lot of talent here on staff, people who understand how colors should complement each other and not clash. And these are decorations you cannot find in an ordinary shop," said Ron Hoffmann, who has owned the Riverbank business since 1996 and was manager before that.

"We go to Atlanta, Georgia in July or August, three of us for seven days. They have several skyscrapers, a huge mall there, a big gift shop, crammed with hundreds of thousands of tree decorations, gifts, ribbons, garlands, poinsettias - and we shop until we drop."

Hoffmann and his helpers set up the trees to represent different themes, ranging from "old-time" with antique German glass ornaments to "music" covered with miniature musical instruments to Hemingway "adventure" with representations of lions, tigers, ships and other features of that author's life.

Other trees are decorated for different areas such as Tahoe with its pine forest and snowbound peaks, the wine country of the Napa Valley and coastal Carmel where the decorations are "from under the sea."

One tree, in a whimsical way, is positioned upside down. Decorated in white crystal ornaments, it rotates slowly driven by an electric motor.

"It's an upside down tree. How else can you have so much floor space, stand close to the trunk, and have the ornaments and garlands hanging straight down?" Hoffman asked.

There is also one corner devoted to selling just trees. They are artificial, designed in various species like Bavarian Spruce or Whistler Pine, built in sections for disassembly and come complete with hundreds of little, white lights.

Another feature of Christmas Magic is a model railway set encircling a snowbound Dickens Village complete with miniature figures like children hauling toboggans, ducks circling a pond and an airborne Santa Claus pulled by his reindeer.

Christmas Magic came into existence as a way to retain customer interest - and indulge his own creativity - in a season when flowers and plants are in hibernation and the nursery's outdoor business is slow.

Started 20 years ago on a much smaller scale, the Christmas Magic program hardly faltered through a fire three years ago that destroyed the nursery's original wooden building. The new building is of metal, has a higher ceiling and offers more open space than the original building.

His Christmas display is unique to the area, Hoffmann noted.

"We get visitors coming from the Bay Area and Sacramento," he said. "There's nothing so elaborate or with decorations paying so much attention to color around here. My nearest rivals, I believe, are the Orchard Nursery in Lafayette and Rogers Gardens in southern California."