36 December 9, 2006
This is probably the weekend when the majority of people go shopping for a Christmas tree. Let me tell you a few things about buying and caring for your tree.
In New England, the most commonly sold type of tree is the balsam fir. The tree has soft needles and the tree is extremely fragrant. I have seen and heard of the common test of freshness for this type of tree. People are told to hold onto a branch and pull their hand down the length of the branch. As the saying goes, if you get a lot of needles in your hand, the tree isn’t fresh. There are several problems with this method of testing for freshness. If the tree is frozen, pulling hard on the branch will cause needles to break off. If the tree has just been opened up at the tree lot, it will be normal to have some needle drop due to the bundling and shipping process. A better test for freshness is to take a needle off of the tree and hold the needle between two fingers. Give the needle a moment or two to warm up. Then place the needle between two fingers. If you can flex the needle without it snapping immediately, then the tree will be fresh. Once the needle is warm, you can also snap the needle in half and check for the traditional Christmas tree smell. A fresh tree will have a strong aroma.
Once you have purchased your tree, you should cut about an inch off of the base of the tree. Place the tree in a tree stand that hold at least a gallon of water if you have a tree that is 6 feet tall or larger. Check the water level in the stand each day. It is very normal for trees to take up a gallon or more of water per day when the tree is first set up. If you allow the tree stand to run out of water, the base of the tree will seal itself and the tree will no longer take up water. The only solution is to take the tree out of the stand and then put a new cut on the base of the tree. As you can see, checking the water level is critical to keeping a tree fresh.
It should go without saying, but keep your tree at the coolest temperature possible. A tree that is in a room with a wood stove is a tree that will dry out quickly. If the tree is located near a radiator, floor vent or baseboard heat source, the tree will dry out quickly.
There are other types of trees that you will find when you go looking for your Christmas tree. The Fraser fir is gaining in popularity as a Christmas tree. The Fraser fir has needles with a blue color on the back. The needles are fragrant and the needles are renowned for staying on the tree for a long time. Concolor fir is another nice tree. The needles are longer than the other firs and the needles are a soft blue color. The needles have a definite citrus smell. You will also see some white pine being sold. This is the common long needle tree that we see growing around our area. The white pine trees that you will see are sheared trees. By shearing the trees from the time the plant is small, the branches grow dense and you wind up with a full tree with lots of long soft needles. White spruce and blue spruce are also sold as Christmas trees. These trees have short needle. Their major drawback is that the needles are very sharp. This makes it hard to decorate the trees.
Having decorated trees in our homes goes back 100’s of years. Many of you may have a nice looking artificial tree to set up, but there is nothing that makes for a more traditional Christmas than the smell of a fragrance emanating from a fresh cut tree in your home.
I’ll talk to you again next week.