Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Christmas Trees at Martin’s Yard & Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on December 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

We have talked in the past how, in our family, Christmas is a season of cherished family traditions and memories. Christmas is a time for family, friends, and sharing, be it as simple as a kind word, a Christmas card or note, or a box of home-made cookies. Selecting the family Christmas Tree, is also, one of those family events that is very special.

We have had many varieties of live trees, cut trees, and now even a few artificial ones. Our trees have had short needles, long needles, and everything between. Cherry and Hawthorne trees were once very popular, although not in our home. Table top trees and half trees, ideal for the small home or apartment, have become very popular in the past few years. We hang a four foot half fake tree on our wall in the familyroom to save space.

Some of the evergreens we have used as Christmas Trees are:

While I do not think we have ever had a bad Christmas Tree, the species we recommend are the Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, and Concolor Fir. We tried a Black Hills Spruce this season and were very happy with it’s shape and structure.

Whatever species of tree you choose, make the selection a happy time, even your failures can bring fond memories. We still laugh about the tree we bought, when we were first married, that would not fit up the stairs to our top story apartment. We ended up throwing a rope out the front window and pulling it up. You can even make disposing of the tree an event. We decorate our old trees with treats for the birds and even use our retired fake trees as part of our outdoor decorations.

Tips of the Month

  • Always refresh the tree by making a straight cut, taking one inch off the butt and immediately place in water.
  • Place the tree in a stand that can hold at least one gallon of water, more preferably.
  • You should expect the new tree to take up additional half gallon of water daily.
  • Always keep the base of a tree in water. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly. You will have to remove the tree and cut again.
  • You do not need anything other than regular tap water, commercially prepared mixes like aspirin, sugar and other additives introduce into the water are not necessary.
  • If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location just place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket of water.
  • Using miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree.
  • Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand as the outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water.
  • Fresh cut trees should last at least five weeks before drying out, some species even longer.
  • Keep trees away from sources of heat such as fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, and direct sunlight.
  • Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process.
  • The temperature of the water used is not important and does not affect water uptake.

Flower of the Month


Picea glauca var. densata ‘Black Hills Spruce’


It is a ornamental evergreen with a deep dark green color and dense growth pattern. It is a truly cold adapted tree and is very resistant to winter injury. It prefers rich moist soil in full sun, and also thrives in dry, well-drained sites. This evergreen conifer tree has a medium growth rate and requires little, if any, pruning. Deer dislike Black Hills Spruce. This tree is commonly used for windbreaks, privacy screens and accent plantings. It will reach a height of six feet in nine years on a good site.

Web Site of the Month


The National Christmas Tree Association


They represent the Christmas Tree Professionals and promoting the use of Real Christmas Trees. More than 5,100 professionals support NCTA programs through membership; participation. This site has a lot of useful information and links to help you select the tree that best suits your needs.

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A Christmas at Martin’s Yard & Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on December 1, 2009 – 12:01 am

Yard Decoration

Yard Decoration


Those of you who have been following Yard Talk over the years know how special Christmas Time is at Martin’s Yard & Garden. It is a very special, magical time, a time for sharing with our friends and family old and new. We welcome you once again into our home and gardens.

Tree

Tree


Our Christmas season begins a few weeks before Thanksgiving with Marty and I planning this seasons indoor and outdoor decorations. This is no easy task for over the years we have accumulated quite a collection of Christmas memorabilia. One that seems to multiply rapidly through the season, much like spearmint in the garden. Marty has an extensive collection of Dayton Hudson Santa Bears, with new ones arriving yearly. We both like Animated Holiday Figures, particularly Snowmen, which are displayed everywhere inside and out. This year we welcomed the Snow Triplets to our home along with Bernard, Brandon, and Bernadette.

All Lit Up

All Lit Up


The Friday after Thanksgiving we start putting up the outside decorations, this usually takes several days as it too seems to grow like weeds. Since I enjoy painting Christmas figures, much of the outside is centered around these creations. Of course, we also put up a few lights and garland.

Cookie Day

Cookie Day


The first Saturday after Thanksgiving is Christmas Cookie Day, a fun filled day involving anyone not afraid to measure, stir, bake and of course, eat a few cookies. Even Madison, our English Setter, gets involved, at least in the eating department. Since we usually bake between 900-1200 cookies, for friends and relatives, this happening lasts well into evening hours.

Between Outdoor Decorating and Cookie Day, Marty and I, choose the Christmas Tree. Some of our most cherished memories involve selecting just the right family Christmas Tree, by no means is this an easy task.  We have had Concolor Fir, Douglas Fir, Noble Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, and White Pine.  The last two years we have had great luck with Black Hills Spruce which we highly recommend it for those looking for a more traditional look. 

We have to admit, we even have an artificial tree. This works perfectly for displaying Marty‘s extensive Christmas Egg Ornaments, many made by our son Geoff. The big advantage an artificial tree offers is that you can bend the branches to suit your needs, even to making it fit into a corner or flat against a wall. Besides I doubt if we could ever agree on two perfect trees!

Egg Tree

Egg Tree

Once the inside and out is decorated, cookies made and shared, and the trees are up, we put on some of our favorite Christmas Carols and wrap our family gifts. This is a time to kick back, relax with your loved ones, a time to count your blessings. Christmas is truly a time for sharing be it a simple cookie or song. We take comfort in the fact that in our own little way we bring joy into this world.

 

December Tip of the Month

While the best-selling trees are the Douglas Fir, Noble Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, Virginia Fir, Black Hills Spruce, and White Pine, no one can pick the right tree for you! This is a very personal choice, a time to get the whole family involved. The best thing you do is just get out there, you need to look, touch, and smell the trees. A nation wide listing of many of these locations can be found at The Christmas Tree Network (http://www.christmas-tree.com/). 

Here are some tips for caring for your tree throughout the holiday season:

  1. Select only the freshest, test for freshness by gently grasping a branch in your hand and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off . Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see a large amount of green needles fall.
  2. If not setting up right away, store the tree in water if possible but make sure that the water will not freeze around the stump, we learned this lesson the hard way. An unheated garage, tool shed, chicken coop, or other area out of the wind and cold is an ideal location. We have found spraying the tree with WiltPruf makes the tree stay fresh longer.
  3. Cut off one half inch from the bottom of the trunk just before putting in the stand. 
  4. Be warned, inspect the tree before bringing it indoors. Insects, rodents, and other pests can enter the home on the Christmas tree and emerge in the warm house.
  5. Keep the tree’s stand full of water at all times, checking the water level twice a day. If the base dries out resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water. The tree must then be taken down and a fresh cut made.
  6. The stand you use should hold at least a gallon of water. Trees may use several quarts of water a day. 
  7. Using plain tap water, slightly warm to the touch, is the best. 
  8. Place the tree well away from heat registers, space heaters, fire places, wood stoves, televisions, computer monitors and other heat sources. 
  9. Use UL approved electrical decorations and cords and unplug tree lights at night or while you are away. Miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree.
  10. Take down the tree before it dries out. Many fresh cut trees, if properly cared for, will last at least five or six weeks before drying out.
  11. Treatments are also available that can be sprayed on trees to reduce flammability. These contain borax or other flame retardants. 

Flower of the Month


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Kalanchoe coccinea

Kalanchoe coccinea ‘blossfeldiana’ 

It is one of the prettiest succulent flowering plants to be associated with the Christmas season. It’s long lasting flowers can be forced to bloom quite easily while the fleshy, wide, oval-shaped leaves are quite attractive.

Kalanchoes are easy to grow, requiring minimum care. This plant does need plenty of light and moisture to grow. Their root system is extremely sensitive and you should use clay pots to allow  for better aeration of the roots. You can ensure excellent drainage by placing pebbles at the bottom of the pot and use light soil containing lots of peat moss, perlite and sand. 

Kalanchoes can be made to flower, like Poinsettias, by adjusting the length of daylight. Short days of less than 12 hours over a period of 2 to 3 weeks will trigger the formation of flower buds. Once the flower buds are formed, the natural daylight regime can be resumed. 


 

Featured Web Site

The National Christmas Tree Association is a wonderful site with loads of information on Christmas Tree selection and care. We also find it to be a very fun site for the whole family. There just is no way to describe this site and do it justice, you need to visit it at least once during the holidays.

 

Book of the Month

Family Blessings by Fern Michael’s

Fern Michael’s uses her keen insight into the emotional bonds between family members and the passions that bring men and women together to create an enduring novel that celebrates love, family, and forgiveness. It is a good family book for the Holiday season.

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The Traditions of Christmas

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on December 1, 2004 – 8:24 pm

Christmas is a season of cherished family traditions and memories. Whether the traditions center on the birth of the Christ Child or other secular activities, Christmas is a time of reflection and celebration. Christmas is a time for family, friends, and sharing, be it as simple as a kind word, a Christmas card or note, or a box of home-made cookies. 

Last December we talked about our families traditions, sharing our treasured moments with you. Each season we build upon those moments of warmth and joy. While all are important to us, selecting and decorating the Christmas Tree brings the warmest glow. Selecting just the right tree is a family event, we take our time and enjoy the moment. 

We have had live trees, cut trees, and now even an artificial one. Our trees have had short needles, long needles, and everything between. Do not be afraid to experiment with different species of trees, after all Cherry and Hawthorne trees were once very popular Holiday trees. Weeping Figs and Norfolk Island Pines are often used today as Christmas Trees. Table top trees have become very popular in the past few years. These are great for the young family starting out or the senior citizen, being easy to decorate and ideal for the small home or apartment. 

Some of the most popular evergreens used as Christmas Trees according to the University of Illinois Extension Service are: 

Deodara Cedar – Cedrus deodara 
– Short, bluish-green needles; branches become pendulous at the tips. 

Eastern Red Cedar – Junirperus viginiana 
– Leaves are a dark, shiny, green color, sticky to the touch and has good scent but can dry out quickly, lasting just 2-3 weeks, a southern Christmas tree. 

Leland Cypress – Cupress ocyparis leylandii 
– foliage is dark green to gray color; has upright branches with a feathery appearance and light scent, good for people with allergies. One of the most sought after Christmas trees in the Southeastern United States. 

Balsam Fir – Abies balsamea 
– Short, flat, long lasting needles that are rounded at the tip with a nice, dark green color with silvery cast, very fragrant. 

Douglas Fir – Pseudotsuga menziesii 
– Good fragrance, holds blue to dark green, the needles have one of the best aromas among Christmas trees when crushed. 

Fraser Fir – Abies fraseri
– Dark green, flattened needles with good needle retention, nice scent; pyramid shaped strong branches which turn upward. 

Grand Fir – Adies grandis 
– Shiny, dark green needles, the needles when crushed, give off a citrus smell. 

Noble Fir – Abies procera 
– Bluish-green needles with a silvery appearance, it has short, stiff branches which are great for heavier ornaments, keeps well. 

Concolor Fir – Abies concolor
– Blue-green needles with a nice shape and good aroma, good needle retention. 

Afghan Pine – Pinus oldarica 
– Soft, short needles with sturdy branches with a open appearance and mild fragrance, keeps well. 

Austrian Pine – Pinus nigra 
– Dark green needles which it retains needles well. 

Red Pine – Pinus resinosa 
– Dark green needles , a big and bushy tree. 

Ponderosa Pine – Pinus ponderosa 
– Needles lighter colored than Austrian Pine and has good needle retention. 

Scotch Pine – Pinus sylvestris 
– Most common Christmas tree with stiff branches, dark green needles which it holds for four weeks, needles will stay on even when dry. 

Virginia Pine – Pinus virginiana 
– Dark green needles in twisted pairs with strong branches enabling it to hold heavy ornaments, strong aromatic pine scent, a popular southern Christmas tree. 

White Pine – Pinus strobus
– Soft, blue-green needles, which it retains throughout the holiday season, very full appearance. 

Black Hills Spruce – Pinus glauca var.densata 
– Green to blue-green needles stiff may be difficult to handle for small children. 

Blue Spruce – Picea pungens
– Dark green to powdery blue very stiff needles, good form, will drop needles in a warm room. 

Norway Spruce – Picea abies
– Shiny, dark green. Needle retention is poor but has a strong fragrance and nice conical shape. 

White Spruce – Picea glauca 
– Green to bluish-green, short, stiff needles which when crushed have an unpleasant odor, good needle retention. 

While I do not think we have ever had a bad Christmas Tree, the species we recommend are the Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Concolor Fir, and White Pine, all of which can be seen on our Plant Data base. We are trying a Black Hills Spruce this season and are very happy with it’s shape and structure. 

Whatever species of tree you choose, make the selection a happy time, even your failures can bring fond memories. We still laugh about the tree we bought, when we were first married, that would not fit up the stairs to our top story apartment. We ended up throwing a rope out the front window and pulling it up. You can even make disposing of the tree an event. We decorate our old trees with treats for the birds and squirrels.

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A Christmas at Martin’s Yard & Garden

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on December 1, 2003 – 7:52 pm
1

Frosty

Christmas is a very special time at Martin’s Yard & Garden. Many of our family traditions revolve around the Christmas Holiday. Activities start shortly after Thanksgiving, with our daughter PC and her husband Jon helping to decorate the exterior of our home. Decorating Day begins at the crack of dawn and usually finishing well after dark. 

Cookie Day

This is followed a week later with Christmas Cookie Day, a traditions spanning generations. A fun filled day involving anyone not afraid to measure, stir, bake and of course, eat a few cookies. Even Madison, our English Setter, gets involved. Since we usually bake between 900-1200 cookies, for friends and relatives, this happening lasts well into evening hours. 

Some where between Outdoor Decorating and Cookie Day, Marty (my partner in arms) and I, choose the Christmas Tree. While some of our most cherished memories involve selecting the family Christmas Tree, it is not an easy task. The selection process has been know to take most of the day, involving much discussion, a few minor injuries, and a lot of travel. 

There are just some things that cannot be rushed, they are meant to be savored. Marty and I believe in taking our time, enjoying each others company and the holiday experience. The poem The Last Christmas Tree by Howard D. Fencl is a cute tale of a father and son hunting for the family tree. 

From experience, we know the best evergreens for “the” Christmas Trees are: Concolor Fir, Douglas Fir, Noble Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, and White Pine. Most of these can be found on any retail or cut your own tree farm. Do not be afraid to experiment with different species of trees, after all Cherry and Hawthorne trees were once very popular indoor holiday trees. We have even seen Weeping Figs, Norfolk Island Pines, and “Fake Trees” used for Christmas Trees. 

Eggscape Ornament

 

Yes, last season, we bought an artificial tree for our second tree. Over the years Marty has collected numerous Christmas Egg Ornaments, many made by our son Geoff. 

We first displayed them along with our traditional ornaments, as the collection grew a second tree was required. After several years of trying to find two “perfect” trees we decided to give a fake tree a try. This proved a perfect solution, although it does not smell or taste as good. 

Whether you select an artificial tree, real cut tree, or a living tree, try to make selecting the tree a family event. Do not be afraid to experiment and try new ideas. Get the whole family involved rather it be for Cookie Day, Outdoor Decorating, or Tree Selection. These happenings last forever as fun times and fond memories.

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The Poinsettia

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on December 1, 2002 – 8:20 pm

The Poinsettia once only offered in red, is now found in many colors, even yellow. What we see as the colorful flowers are the leaf bracts. It is called the “Flame Leaf” in Central America or “Flower of the Holy Night” and was brought here over a hundred years ago by Dr. Joel Poinsett, our first ambassador to Mexico. 

The Legend 

The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved Christmas but were always saddened because they had no money to buy presents. They especially wished that they could give something to the church for the Baby Jesus, but they had nothing. 

One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. On their way, they picked some weeds growing along the roadside and decided to take them as their gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene. Of course they were teased by other children when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers and so we see them to this day. 

Perhaps you’d be interested in knowing a little bit more about the poinsettia plant you buy every Christmas: 

  1. Did you know that the poinsettia’s main attraction is not its flowers, but its leaves? The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center. The colored leafy parts are bracts or modified leaves.
  2. Red is the most popular color, accounting for roughly three-quarters of all sales nationwide, followed by white and pink. Poinsettias come in a variety of colors from red, salmon, and apricot to yellow, cream, and white. There are also unusual speckled or marbled varieties like “Jingle Bells” and “Candy Cane” with several colors blended together. New varieties are introduced yearly with even more variation in height and colors.
  3. How many poinsettias do you think are sold in a year? If you guessed around 60 million, you’d be in the ballpark. Would you believe that last year more than 65 million were sold nationwide? Poinsettias accounted for one-third of sales of all flowering potted plants. In economic terms, which is $237 million out of a total of $781 million in sales of all flowering potted plants!
  4. Although every state in the United States grows poinsettias commercially, California is the top producer with about 27 million pots grown, followed by Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan, each with about 14 million pots.
  5. Did you know that in the wild, the poinsettia can reach heights of 12 feet with leaves measuring six to eight inches across? It is actually a small tropical tree belonging to the Euphorbia plant family. Its botanical name is Euphorbia pulcherrima although in English speaking countries it is more commonly known as the poinsettia. A native of southern Mexico, the poinsettia blooms in December and has been used in that country to decorate churches for centuries.
  6. In the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, the Aztecs used the poinsettia leaves to dye fabric for clothing and the sap for medicinal purposes, including to help control fevers. They also considered the red color a symbol of purity, and so poinsettias were traditionally part of religious ceremonies.
  7. Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, an amateur botanist and first United States ambassador to Mexico, introduced the plant that became known as the poinsettia to this country. He discovered a shrub with brilliantly colored red leaves growing by the side of the road in Taxco, Mexico, in December 1828 and sent cuttings home to his plantation in Greenville, South Carolina. But did you know that most botanists then dismissed the poinsettia as a weed? Fortunately, Poinsett continued to study and breed this plant in his greenhouse, sharing plants with his horticulturist friends. It soon gained acceptance as a holiday plant, despite its very short bloom time. It was not until the 1960s that researchers were able to successfully breed plants to bloom more than just a few days.
  8. December 12 is National Poinsettia Day. Never heard of it? Believe it or not, the United States has observed this official day since the mid-1800s. It honors the man and the plant he introduced. Poinsett died Dec.12, 1851.
  9. True or False? The poinsettia is a poisonous plant. If you answered false, you’re correct. The plant has been tested repeatedly and cleared of this charge by the National Poison Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and the American Medical Association. The POINSINDEX Information Service, the main information resource for poison control centers across the country, reports that even if a 50-pound child consumed more than 500 poinsettia bracts–the amount tested in scientific experiments–the consequences would not be fatal. Even at this high level, no toxicity was found.
  10. However, this does not mean that poinsettias are meant to be eaten. If ingested, this plant can cause stomach irritation and discomfort. Cats and children also may choke on the fibrous parts, so be sure to keep these plants out of their reach. The sticky white sap also may cause skin irritation for some people.
  11. Do you know the best way to prolong the life of this Christmas plant? Avoid hot or cold drafts, keep the soil moist not soggy, and place in a room with sufficient natural light.

Fun Facts About Poinsettias
by Leonard Perry
December 9, 2001

Poinsettias as mentioned are native to Mexico and like lots of heat. Growing them outdoors generally requires a minimum temperature of about 45 degrees, and they do best with night temperatures of about 60 degrees. If you want to plant a poinsettia in the garden after the holiday season, make sure to keep it healthy while indoors by placing the plant in a sunny, draft-free location and watering it when it is approaching dryness. Avoid sudden temperature changes. When the leaves fall in late winter, cut the stems back to the two healthiest buds and reduce watering to the bare minimum. 

When frost danger has past you can move the plants outdoors. When new growth begins to show, feed with an all purpose fertilizer every other week. The soil should be slightly acid. Use only a sterilized, lightweight potting mix. 

Poinsettias are short day plants. Although they will eventually bloom, if you want the plants in bloom for the holidays they must be subjected to at least six weeks of 14 hours of total darkness per day (mid to late September). This may be accomplished by placing a potted plant in a closet or unlighted room. The plant should then be returned to the light each day and given a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun. 

Here are some tips on how to keep these plants going: 

  1. Place the plant in bright light, but not direct sun.
  2. Keep soil slightly moist, not waterlogged.
  3. Feed with a liquid houseplant fertilizer.
  4. When the flowers fade, keep the leaves healthy by watering and feed as you would during the flowering season.
  5. The flowerless plant still needs bright light.
  6. Prune back during the growing season to control its size and shape so it won’t get thin and ungainly.
  7. Maintain a night temperature of 60 to 67 degrees.
  8. Mist leaves daily.

Poinsettias usually will outlast your desire to keep them!

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The Christmas Poinsettia

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on December 1, 2001 – 8:14 pm

There are many long standing Christmas traditions in the Martin household such as (selecting Christmas Tree), baking Christmas Cookies, and choosing the Christmas Poinsettias. In the past, the tree selection and cooking making took most of a day with picking out the poinsettias taking less than an hour. 

Well, those days are long gone, poinsettias now come in all sizes and shapes. We now have not only the traditional reds but also yellows, pinks, roses, whites and even spotted poinsettias to choose from. This plant now ranges in size from the dwarf, at 6-12 inches to some over 60 inches tall. Everyone now has their own favorite color or size. 

Where we use to put one or two around the home, we now have been known to fill our entry way with them. Nothing beats walking into a home smelling of fresh baked cookies, a garland tree, and being greeted by a profusion of warm colored poinsettias. Add Christmas Carols being sung by an open fire and you will never want to leave. 

Once selected, poinsettias require little care during the Holidays. Keep them out of drafts, away from heaters, and water occasionally. Let the soil dry to the touch between waterings and make sure they are not standing in water and they will be happy. We like to remove any decorative wrappings and repot ours in terra -cotta pots with gravel in the bottom to improve drainage and perspiration. The repotted plants are then set in trays and placed on display. If you want to soften the look of the clay pots surround them with poly-snow or other seasonable decorations. 

Once the Holidays are over, and the poinsettias are starting to get a little tattered, just take the pots outside, pop the plant out, and throw them swiftly onto the compost pile. As far as I am concerned the best thing you can do with this plant after Christmas is throw it away and go on to better things. 

My wife, on the other hand, believes that this plant deserves a better fate. Marty feels anything this beautiful should not meet its end on the compost pile. Of course, she has had very good luck growing poinsettias year round while I quickly kill them in a few weeks. 

For those of you that feel as she does, I have listed the steps she takes to insure or at least increase the chances of successful year round growing as this month’s tips. Give it a try!

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The Living Christmas Tree

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on January 1, 2001 – 8:09 pm

In December’s Yard Talk we made a case against using a potted conifer as a Christmas Decoration. In fact we said: 

“A word of caution for those choosing a potted tree, they require careful planning and a lot more work. We prefer cut living trees that are recyclable. In our area in Zone 5 in Southwestern Lower Michigan, we have seen too many trees that did not survive the harsh Winters.”

 
While we still stand by our statement that a living tree is not for everyone from the feedback we received that more and more people are choosing the potted tree. Last season almost 18 percent of the trees sold in our area were potted or ball and burlaped. 

Two Christmas tree farms in our area have even switched part of there “cut your own” acreage to “dig your own”. They both provide the shovels, burlap, and twine with the customer supplying the muscle. Even with the average tree weighing 150-200 pounds they report that business was brisk. Another individual reported that a nursery in their area lets you select a tree in the warmer seasons then will dig and wrap it just before the holidays. They even offer delivery and decorating services. 

The advantage to both of these methods is that you are assured of getting a tree which will grow in your area. Also you know how long the tree has been dug. In the first case you even have control of how it was dug and wrapped or potted. The advantage in the later case is that the tree is being handled and transported by professionals with professional equipment. 

It use to be that living trees came only balled and burlaped or in plastic pots. Once and awhile a retailer would stick a tree in a half whiskey barrel but that was about all. Today you have a much wider choice from light weight concrete/fiberglass pots to the newer decorative tubs made from recycled plastics. We have seen pots which would hold a 5-7 foot evergreen, that could easily be moved with the assistance of a few friends,. Using a large pot not only allows for better planting but, ease of watering. Also, a large pot will not dry out as quickly. One individual always sprays her tree with Wilt Pruf before she brings the tree in and again when she moves it out. This helps the tree hold moisture and prevents drying out. 

These large potted evergreens can be easily rolled outside with a hand cart. The tree, once outside and placed in a sheltered area, can be easily mulched with straw or marsh hay. With wind protection, careful watering, and treatment with an anti-transpirant the tree has a good chance of survival. 

Another way to “winter over” a tree is to rent space in your local florist’s or nursery’s greenhouse. Usually these greenhouses are pretty bare after the holidays. The current popularity of sun rooms also offers a place to store a tree. These attached rooms which, while unheated, are usually above freezing and offer suitable storage. Even if you do not have one you probably know someone that does who will be more than happy to help out. 

If you forgot to prepare a planting hole before the ground froze and all else fails you can always hire or rent a tree spade. These large hydraulic powered shovels can penetrate even the hardest frozen ground. While not cheap, $100.00- $200.00 depending on the size, they will plant any tree you can get into your house. Even with this method, adequate shelter and water are important. 

Living trees require careful planning and more work than other forms of Christmas Trees. Remember, a lot of this work is after the joy and glitter of the holiday season is over. If you are planning a ski vacation or heading south for the winter someone still must take care of “the tree”. This is why we do not think selecting a live tree should be taken lightly. After all why go through the trouble of selecting a living tree, potting it, and bringing it into your home only to have it die.

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The Christmas Tree

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on December 1, 2000 – 8:03 pm


Selecting the family Christmas Tree is a long standing tradition in the Martin household. The selection process often takes most of the day and involves the whole family. We have had firs, pines, spruces and even a hemlock. My wife’s favorite is the Douglas Fir while the Fraser Fir is my favorite. No matter what variety, our Christmas Trees had to be big and full. Some of our fondest memories are of going out on a cold clear winter’s day selecting a tree. 

Some people promote artificial trees as a way of protecting the environment. Since a fake tree is a petroleum based product, consuming vast amounts of non-renewable natural resources to produce, this reason has little merit. Plastic trees also have only a life span of six years in the home but will last for centuries in the landfill. For those people that consider living trees messy there are varieties such as the Leyland Cypress that do not shed their needles. Real Christmas trees today are grown on large plantations as a cash crop. Here they provide homes, food, and shelter for wildlife. How many birds nests do you see in artificial trees? For our family, the only choice is between a living cut tree or potted living tree. 

A word of caution for those choosing a potted tree, they require careful planning and a lot more work. According to the National Christmas Tree council, to use a living tree successfully, you need to observe the following points:

  1. The adaptability of the species to your yard should be considered. Many species are shipped outside their natural area and may not be adaptable to other areas.
  2. The tree should be stored in an unheated, sheltered area such as a garage.
  3. The tree will need adequate water. The root ball or soil should be kept lightly damp but not flooded. Wrap the root ball of a balled tree in plastic or place in a tub while it is in the house.
  4. Once inside, the tree should be placed in a cool area out of direct light. Please remember though, that since this is a living plant, it still needs some light to survive.
  5. Live trees may be decorated, but with care. If lights are used, they must not give off any heat.
  6. Do not remove the tree directly from a warm house out into freezing temperatures. Instead, move to a sheltered area first for several days.
  7. If the ground is unfrozen, the tree may be replanted. The spot to be dug may be mulched to prevent freezing. Plant when possible.
  8. Do not remove the burlap and strapping (unless it is plastic) this keeps the root ball solid and secure.
  9. Do not attempt to remove soil from the root system. Earth removed from the original hole should be backfilled around the root ball.
  10. Mulch heavily over the top of the planted root ball to prevent it from freezing. Water only as needed: a flooded tree may not survive.
  11. Stake the trees to prevent wind tipping or damage during the first growing season.

We prefer cut living trees that are recyclable. In our area in Zone 5 in Southwestern Lower Michigan, we have seen too many trees that did not survive the harsh Winters. With care and proper selection, a living cut tree can last a very long time. The type of tree you select has an important bearing on how long it will last. Some trees are much more prone to dropping their needles than others. Some trees are even painted to help them hold their needles and color. You can avoid this by buying locally cut trees or better yet, cutting your own. The poem The Last Christmas Tree by Howard D. Fencl http://www.dads.com/x_tree.htm is a cute tale of a father and son Christmas Tree hunting. 

Whether you select an artificial tree, real cut tree, or a living tree, try to make selecting the tree a family event. Take your time, and enjoy the experience.

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The Christmas Tree

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on December 1, 1999 – 9:26 am

For many, the selection of a Christmas Tree has been a family tradition. In our household, it is not unusual for the selection process to take most of the day, require traveling hundreds of miles, and involving the whole family. Our dog Madison even likes to tag along. We have had just about every type of tree imaginable, firs, pines, spruces and even a hemlock. The one common denominator they all had was, they had to be big and full. One year, when we were living in an upstairs apartment, the tree we bought would not fit up the stairs and we had to pull it up with a rope through the front window. One year we learned the hard way how quickly a hemlock will shed it’s needles and had to go out and buy a second tree. 

Christmas Trees date back to Roman times. Martin Luther, in the 10th century, is credited with being the first to decorate a tree indoors. Hessian troops introduced the Christmas Tree into the United States during the Revolutionary War. President Pierce introduced the Christmas Tree into the White House in 1856 and the first National Tree was lighted in 1923. Now, every state has their own tree and lighting ceremonies. Probably the most noteworthy tree lighting is the one at Rockefeller Center. 

Now adays, artificial trees have become very popular. Some people go this route as a way of protecting the environment. But since they are a petroleum based product that consumes vast amounts of non-renewable natural resources to produce, this reason has little merit. Also, remember, plastic trees have only a life span of six years in the home but will last for centuries in the landfill. Paul Bowles in his fine article Christmas Tree Care states, “Personally, I think the driving motivation behind folks buying artificial trees instead of live cut trees is the specter of the dreaded needle drop.” Remember then, when making your choice, do you want to help the environment or fill a landfill with useless trash? For our family, the only choice is between a living cut tree or living tree. 

A word of caution in choosing between a cut and living tree, a living tree is definitely not for everyone. They require careful planning and a lot more work than a cut tree. According to the National Christmas Tree council, to use a living tree successfully, you need to observe the following points:

  • The adaptability of the species to your yard should be considered. Many species are shipped outside their natural area and may not be adaptable to other areas.
  • The tree should be stored in an unheated, sheltered area such as a garage or porch, out of the wind and sun. Do not expose the tree to freezing temperatures at any time.
  • The tree will need adequate water. The root ball or soil should be kept slightly damp but not flooded. Wrap the root ball of a balled tree in plastic or place in a tub while it is in the house.
  • Once inside, the tree should be placed in a cool area out of direct light. Please remember though, that since this is a living plant, it still needs some light to survive.
  • Live trees may be decorated, but with care. If lights are used, they must not give off any heat.
  • Do not remove the tree directly from a warm house out into freezing temperatures. Instead, move to a sheltered area first for several days.
  • If the ground is unfrozen, the tree may be replanted. The spot to be dug may be mulched to prevent freezing. Plant as soon as possible.
  • Do not remove the burlap and strapping (unless it is plastic). This keeps the root ball solid and secure. In the instance of a plastic cover, cut the cord and roll down the plastic at least half way prior to planting. Tap the tree container of a potted tree and remove prior to planting. Do not attempt to remove soil from the root system. Earth removed from the original hole should be back filled around the root ball. Mulch heavily over the top of the planted root ball to prevent it from freezing. Water only as needed: a flooded tree may not survive.
  • Stake the trees to prevent wind tipping or damage during the first growing season.

Our family prefers the cut living tree that is biodegradable and easily recyclable. In our area in zone 5 in Southwestern Lower Michigan, we have just seen too many trees that did not survive the harsh Winters. With care and proper selection, a living cut tree can last a very long time. The type of tree you select has an important bearing on how long it will last. Some trees are much more prone to dropping their needles than others. This is why the Hemlocks are seldom sold as cut Christmas Trees. True Firs (as opposed to Douglas Firs) hold their needles the best and are the most fragrant, followed by Red-Cedar’s and Juniper’s. Douglas Firs, Spruces, and Pines vary in needle retention based on quality, how long it was cut before placing in water, and temperature. Some trees are even painted to help them hold their needles and color. You can avoid this by buying locally cut trees or better yet cutting your own. 

Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states. The Southeast is best known for their Fraser Firs, the West and Southwest for the stately Douglas Fir, Engelman Spruces, and Lodgepole Pines, and the North and East for the fine Eastern Spruces and White Pines. Most Christmas Trees today are grown on large plantations, in fact, over one million acres are planted in evergreens. Two thousand trees are planted per acre with 34-36 million trees being produced annually. California, Oregon, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina produce most of the trees. This is why most trees have to be cut weeks ahead of time and shipped long distances. 

The best-selling trees are the Scotch Pine, Douglas Fir, Noble Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, Virginia Fir, and White Pine. Most of these can be found on any retail or cut your own lot farm. A nation wide listing of many of these locations can be found at Christmas Tree USA http://www.christmas-tree.com/real/index.html. The University of Georgia provides a good description of most trees at Bugwood USA http://www.bugwood.caes.uga.edu/christmas/html/species.html#species

Whether you select an artificial tree, living cut tree, or a living tree, by all means, try to make selecting the tree a family event, take your time, and enjoy the experience. As we mentioned last year, do not be afraid to experiment with different species of trees, after all Cherry and Hawthorne trees were once very popular indoor holiday trees. We have even seen Weeping Figs and Norfolk Island Pines used as Christmas Trees.

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The Traditional Christmas Tree

Icon Written by GeoffM1968 on December 1, 1998 – 8:22 pm

In our home, the selection of the family Christmas Tree has been a cherished tradition going back many generations. It is not unusual for the selection process to take in most of the day and require traveling hundreds of miles. There are just some things that cannot be rushed but must be savored. I think we have had just about every type of tree imaginable, short needled, long needled, and everything between. The one common denominator they all had was they had to be big and full. One year when we were living in an upstairs apartment the tree we bought would not fit up the stairs and we had to pull it up with a rope through the front window. 

Actually the Christmas Tree dates back to Roman times. Martin Luther, in the 10th century, is credited with being the first to decorate a tree indoors. The custom of the Christmas Tree was introduced into the United States during the War of Independence by Hessian troops. Franklin Pierce introduced the traditional Christmas Tree into the White House in 1856 and the first National Tree was lighted in 1923. 

Some interesting Christmas Tree Facts are: 

  • Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states.
  • Trees are often cut weeks before they hit the retail market.
  • Over one million acres are planted in Christmas Trees.
  • Two thousand trees are planted per acre with only an average of 750 surviving to market.
  • One of Thomas Edison’s assistants came up with the idea of Christmas lights.
  • Teddy Roosevelt banned trees from the White House as wasteful.
  • 34-36 million trees are produced annually.
  • California, Oregon, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina produce most of the trees.

The best-selling trees are the Scotch Pine, Douglas Fir, Noble Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, Virginia Fir, and White Pine. Most of these can be found on any retail or cut your own lot farm. A nation wide listing of many of these locations can be found at Christmas Tree USA. The University of Georgia provides a good description of most trees atBugwood USA. Some good tips on selecting your tree are put out by The Illinois Christmas Tree Association 

Whatever you do, try to make selecting a tree a family event, take time and enjoy the experience. Do not be afraid to experiment with different species of trees, after all Cherry and Hawthorne trees were once very popular indoor holiday trees. We have even seen Weeping Figs and Norfolk Island Pines used as Christmas Trees. Times such as these last forever as fun times and fond memories.

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