It’s about time to pick a Christmas tree, but which one? There are three species of conifers usually available for Christmas tree, firs, spruces and pines, but there are several varieties of each. If you hate falling needles, look to the pines. The Scotch pine is the fluffy one. It is a vibrant green and hangs on to its needles. The downside is that it is very soft and can only support very light ornaments. The other pine is the Eastern white pine. This is the one to get if you have people with allergies in the house. It too needs lightweight ornaments but has little scent to trigger sneezes.
The Colorado blue spruce sheds the least of the spruces. The color is a silvery blue. The branches are stiff and will hold almost any ornament. Unlike the pines, spruces are a bit looser shaped although, like all commercial Christmas trees, they have been heavily pruned throughout their lives. The White spruce has softer branches, but still stiff enough for heavy ornaments. It does shed of course. The color is still on the blue side, but it is not as pronounced as its sister.
Then there are the firs. Balsam fir is the most beloved Christmas tree, especially in the northwest. She has long lasting needles that smell sweet and woodsy. The needles hang on longer than most. Douglas fir, a Pacific Northwest native, is the most sought-after Christmas tree nationwide. Its dense branches and soft needles make it a favorite. If you are looking for a tree with a nice citrusy fragrance, look for the Concolor fir. The extra long needles have a white tint. This tree goes by another name, white fir. For an absolutely picture-perfect tree, get a Fraser fir. It typically has a perfectly uniform shape and smells like heaven. The branches turn up making it perfect for hanging ornaments on. The needles have a silvery tip.
To choose the freshest tree, go to a cut your own farm. If you can’t do that, pick up the tree you want and drop it on its stump. If the needles fall like snowflakes, pick another tree. Feel the branches. If you can break off the tip of a branch, it's dry enough to be a fire hazard. Pick a tree taller than you want and have the trunk cut off to the proper height. As soon as you get it home, stick it in a 5-gallon bucket for a few days. This will ensure that it drinks a lot of water and stays fresh. If you promptly put it in a stand, you will need to refill it three to four times a day or it will dry up and not take any water for the rest of the season resulting in a dangerously dry tree.
If you have to tie a tree to the top of your car, tie it with the trunk to the front. That way you won’t be shedding branches all the way home. If possible, tie a plastic bag to the cut trunk to keep it from drying up or cover it with a plastic tree bag. Do tie the bag tightly to the trunk. It makes a nice parachute otherwise.
It’s now Jan. 1 and time to haul the tree out. You can take the time to wrestle it into a tree bag, or…. Get out the garden clippers and cut the branches off, stuffing them in the tree bag until you have only a few branches left on the top. Now you can carry the bag out and later the trunk without having to move the furniture or strewing needles all over the house. Martha would approve.
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