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The Joy of Living Christmas Trees

1 year 5 weeks ago
Holiday tree selection and the search for the perfect one is upon us. Here are a few helpful hints to guide you on your quest:

Trees cut and hanging at the Christmas tree lot all seem acceptable. What to do?   Easy... simply pinch off a few needles, crush and smell.  The aroma should be pleasing. Next, with your hand, tap a couple branches at midpoint and observe how many needles fall. If many fall, decline the tree, as it has been cut for too long.  If a few fall, that’s OK. 

Lastly, gently bend a few branches with your hand. They should be flexible in all directions, yet firm enough to hold the decorations. Clean cut the trunk base at home and immediately submerse in water. Keep water level high as long as you keep the tree. Turn lights off at night, to conserve electricity and reduce fire hazard.

Now, instead of an acceptable tree, how about the perfect one? Purchase a living tree! Choose a species that grows naturally in your area. Here in the Northeast U.S., we favor blue spruce and fir varieties, such as Frasier and Douglas. Place on top of waterproof material, wrap root ball in decorative cloth, and water frequently.  Indoor air is much drier and will increase transpiration rates.  You will need to water often to keep the substrate moist.

Once the tree has served its decorative, indoor purpose, place it in a cold (approximately 40 degrees F), non-temperature- controlled space. Cover root ball with mulch, blankets, or similar material to protect it from drastic temperature fluctuations. 

Schedule a late winter/early spring family planting day and plant your Christmas tree. Not only do will you add another tree to the earth, you’ll enjoy its benefits for generations. Plus, each tree planted represents that season’s holiday and all its memories, forever expressed in the majestic crown of the tree YOU planted.

Lee Dean is lead arborist for Cornell Botanic Gardens

Click here to view a three-minute interview with Lee created by intern Diana Buckley.