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Christmas Trees

 

"O tannenbaum,
o tannenbaum,
your branches green
delight us"

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 open presents. 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.

decorated Christmas tree

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 classic 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 bright;
They're green when winter snow is white"
  

 Pine Christmas Trees

  
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.

  Scotch Pine Christmas tree branches
Scotch Pine

  

 Fir Christmas Trees

  
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 listed here.

  Fraser Fir Christmas tree branches
Fraser Fir

  

 Spruce Christmas Trees


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.

  Blue Spruce Christmas tree branches
Colorado Blue Spruce
   
 

  
Keeping a cut Christmas tree fresh

 TreeBoss Tips

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 Fresh sliver cut off a Christmas tree 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 easy access.

More: Planting a Christmas tree


Q.  Is it true that dissolving an aspirin in the water reservoir of cut Christmas trees helps keep them fresh longer?

A.  No, 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.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Trees

 


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