your branches green
Who doesn't remember singing the old
German carol about Christmas trees... our family sang it on
Christmas morning as we came down the steps from the second floor to
It was a Christmas tradition.
Things have changed since the 1950's when we travelled out to the
country in our family station wagon, bow saw in hand, to select a
live Christmas tree from our aunt's farm. She had a group of pine
trees that had been planted 30 years earlier, and our selections
weren't always based on straightness and fullness, as much as
choosing a tree
that would allow more space for the remaining trees. Since her pine
trees were much taller than we needed for our 10-foot ceiling, we
would cut the tree down and then remove only the top 8 or 9 feet.
After dragging the tree into the back of the car and flagging the
overhang sticking out the back, we headed back to the city. It seemed that
Christmas tree duties were split-up in our family; the men got the
tree up and put the Christmas lights on, then the ladies added
the garlands, tinsel and ornaments. Our tree decorating was never complete
without a loop of Lionel track around the base, to accommodate the
Santa Fe diesels pulling 5 silver passenger cars.
Our tree was always taken down on New Year's Day, with the tree ornaments
going back in their boxes and up to the attic until next year. Of all the fond
memories of Christmas, it seems they all began with our ride out to
the country to cut our own Christmas tree. The trees were always fresh
and had that great pine smell that added so much to our Christmas
season. Merry Christmas!
"They're green when summer days are
They're green when winter snow is white"
Most people tend to interchange the term "pine tree" with "evergreen
tree." Small difference you might say, but pines tend to have longer
needles than most other evergreens. Scotch Pine is the most commonly
grown Christmas tree, at least in the northeastern United
States. Since these pines exhibit rapid growth, they
usually provide the most economical tree for a consumer.
When you move from hamburger to steak in
your Christmas tree selection, you'll find yourself in the Fir
aisle of the Christmas tree lot. Douglas Fir and Fraser Fir are the
two local favorites, with Fraser Fir Christmas trees being this
writer's favorite. Both varieties have that wonderful "just peeled
orange" aroma and hold their needles longer than the other varieties
Some of the fullest and most shapely
Christmas trees are from the Spruce family. Norway Spruce and
Colorado Spruce are grown in the northern US, with the Norway
being the faster growing of the two. Colorado Spruces can be green or
blue, but both have sharp needles that are best handled while wearing a
long sleeve shirt. Branches on the Colorado are better suited for
hanging heavy Christmas ornaments.
Colorado Blue Spruce
Keeping a cut Christmas tree
1. Buy the freshest tree available
With many Christmas trees being cut well before Thanksgiving, the
best way to guarantee a fresh tree is to visit a local Christmas
tree farm and cut it yourself. These trips can turn into fun
adventures for the family. If you plan to tie the tree to the roof
of your vehicle, take along a cover thick enough to protect the
finish of your paint. Secure the tree well, with the top of the tree
facing toward the back of your vehicle.
2. Buying from a Christmas tree lot
To check freshness, shake the tree to
see how many needles are shed. If needle shed is heavy, try finding
another tree that sheds less needles. Of the three Christmas tree
varieties shown above, spruce will shed the soonest, pines next,
with firs holding their needles the longest.
3. Re-cut the trunk
The cut trunk on a Christmas tree
absorbs less water the longer it's exposed to air. Therefore, cut a
fresh sliver off the bottom so it will take up more water from your
tree stand. Some tree lots will make the fresh cut for you if you
ask. Remember that most tree holders require a certain length of
trunk without branches to fit in the tree holder, so don't cut off
more trunk than you need to.
4. Get the tree into water
If you aren't putting your tree up right away, make a fresh cut
on the trunk and put it in a bucket of water. An unheated garage
works well as a temporary storage area. Check the water often since
Christmas trees usually come home thirsty.
5. Display the tree away from heat sources
Fresh cut Christmas trees will last longer if they are placed away
from hot air vents and other sources of heat. Twinkle lights and LED
lights have less drying affect than the old-fashioned big bulb
Christmas lights. Keep your tree in the house for as short a time as
possible. Turn-off tree lights when no one is in the room for
safety's sake and to save energy.
6. Going the extra mile
Fresh cut trees and Christmas wreaths
can also be sprayed with an anti-dessicant like Wilt-Pruf. This step
not only keeps the evergreen foliage fresh longer, it also adds a
sheen to the foliage. Mix it in a hand sprayer and spray your tree
or wreath before bringing it into the house, allowing adequate
drying time and following label instructions.
You can also treat the water in the tree stand with a commercial
product or homemade concoction, but should remember that children and pets will have
Q. Is it
true that dissolving an aspirin in the water reservoir of cut
Christmas trees helps keep them fresh longer?
that is not true. I'm not sure if it qualifies as an old wives'
tale, but adding aspirin - or anything else - to the water in the
tree stand reservoir does nothing to prolong the useful life of a
cut Christmas tree. Research indicates that the most important
things you can do to keep a cut tree fresh are:
• Select a
fresh tree. Bumping the trunk on the ground normally results in some
dropped needles and debris. If a tree drops lots of dead needles, it
may be an indication that it was cut a while ago.
• Once you get
it home, remove one-quarter inch of wood from the bottom of the
trunk to expose fresh water conductive vessels. This ensures that
the tree is able to take up adequate water. Be sure to make the cut
straight across the base so that the tree sits properly in the
stand. Get it into water as soon as possible. Stick it in a bucket
until you have the tree stand ready.
• Keep the
reservoir filled with water and never allow the tree to dry out.
Make sure that the base of the tree is submerged in water. Some
reservoirs can have water in them, but the water level is below the
base of the tree.
Frequently Asked Questions about Trees