Friday, January 15, 2021
Jan. 15, 2021

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Gardening with Allen: Keep your Christmas tree fresh


Our family prefers real Christmas trees. How can we be sure we are getting one that will not lose a lot of needles before Christmas?

There are several steps in selecting and caring for a real Christmas tree so the needles stick on the tree through the entire season.

Living trees growing in pots can be used as Christmas trees and then planted outside in the landscape shortly after Christmas. Consider placing a smaller tree on a table rather than getting a full-size tree. Or consider a variety that does not look like a traditional Christmas tree, such as an alpine fir. The best place to buy a living Christmas tree is at a full-service nursery or garden store, although I have seen smaller trees at big-box stores. Living trees will start growing if left inside for more than about 14 days, so plan accordingly.

The freshest trees are the ones you cut yourself. There are local Christmas tree farms where you can cut your own tree or pick one cut the same day.

Some trees on lots are cut several weeks before they are shipped. Although you cannot always depend upon getting correct information about when trees were cut and how they were shipped, you can do some checking yourself. If you see trees unloaded from a closed van-type trailer, you know they have been protected from drying winds during shipment. Feel the needles to see if they are soft and flexible. Bounce the trunk on the ground and watch how many needles fall off. It is natural for trees to lose a few discolored needles from the inside of the tree, but outer green needles should not drop. Trees that have been exposed to wind in shipment will have a grayish, dry look on one side. Trees that remain on open lots during windy weather may have dry needles. Trees purchased early usually last better than those purchased later.

Fir trees such as grand, noble, Fraser and Nordmann hold their needles much better than pines and spruces. Douglas firs and alpine firs are almost as good.

Cut a one-half-inch piece from the bottom of the trunk and get it into a tree holder with a water reservoir as soon as possible. If you can’t bring your tree in the house right away, stick the trunk in a holder or bucket of water inside a garage or shed so it is not exposed to drying winds.

Decorate with smaller lights that give off less drying heat. Turn lights off during the daytime or whenever no one is around. Place trees away from fireplaces, heat ducts or TV sets which give off a lot of heat. Check water holders to make sure the bottom of the trunk is not exposed. This may mean refilling every day or two.

Flocking reduces needle drying. Some vendors can dip or spray trees with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt-Pruf which coats needles with latex.

If you follow these suggestions, you will have a minimum of needle loss from your Christmas tree.