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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of November 28, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, my thoughts turn to one thing – besides wondering how many more days do we have to eat leftovers – and that is getting our Christmas tree. For those of the same mindset, here are some suggestions to guide you in a buying pre-cut tree:

  • If it’s stiff branches that you need to support heavy ornaments, go with Scot’s pine, spruce, Fraser fir, or balsam fir.  Douglas fir and white pine are okay if ornaments are light weight.
  • For excellent needle retention (a key point if getting your tree early), the best are firs and Scot’s pine.  Generally, spruce species do not hold their needles as well as firs and pines.  Also, the needles of spruce tend to be sharp, making decorating a bit of a pain.  However, the sharp-needles of spruce may be an effective deterrent in keeping an exuberant Fido or Fifi away from your tree.
  • For great fragrance, sniff around the sales yard.  Chances are that you’ll drool over the citrus-like fragrance of concolor fir.  Fraser fir and balsam fir also possess strong Christmas tree scent.
  • If you’re feeling a little blue, that is, a desire for a hint of blue in the needles of your tree, look to blue spruce, concolor fir, or Fraser fir.
  • Before shopping for a Christmas tree, decide where in the house it will go.  A 10-foot tree in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be a problem, in which case, there are two options: 1) cut off a section of the tree trunk though that may destroy the form which made the tree so appealing at the sales yard; 2) cut a hole in the ceiling – okay, not a good option.  If the room has a very high ceiling and a very large tree is desired, an economical choice would be a white pine.  On a related note, the best place to set up the tree is in a cool room and away from any heating source, such as a radiator or fireplace.
  • Think about how many sides of the tree needs to be displayed.  If placing the tree against a wall or in a corner of a room, a tree with only 2 or 3 good looking sides will suffice.
  • One of the most important factors in selecting a pre-cut tree is freshness.  This may not be an issue at a Christmas tree farm where trees have been recently cut or where you are cutting your own. However, Christmas trees sold at tree lots may have been cut many weeks earlier.  The best way to test for freshness is to grab a branch and run your hand along the branch and needles.  A truly fresh tree will surrender very few of its needles.  Even with a tree judged to be fresh, it’s a good idea to saw off a couple of inches from the base of the tree stem just before placing the tree in a tree stand with ample supply of water.  Check the water level in the stand daily.
  • A recent trend in Christmas trees is the living tree, that is, a potted or container-grown tree.  Next week, I’ll provide some thoughts on handling a living Christmas tree.

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