By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
This has been a crazy week for garden center owners and their suppliers. It’s the annual mad rush to harvest, ship, unload, set up, and show off tractor trailer – loads of plants for the coming holiday season. Fully packed trucks hurriedly deliver trees, poinsettias, Christmas cactuses, amaryllises, fresh wreaths and garlands only to run back to the farm and fill up for another hurried load. It’s a busy time, but exciting to feel the energy of the season ignite each day!
I realize next weekend is when most folks traditionally buy their Christmas trees, but before walking onto the lot you should know how to choose the freshest cut tree, what type of tree choices you’ll find, and which trees will stay “fresh” longer. This is an article you might want to print out, or bookmark by you computer, Kindle, and iPad readers.
Something you should know before buying your tree: there are trees being marketed that have been cut for a month or more and either sprayed with artificial preservatives, or soaked in ponds or lakes while waiting for their ship dates. Farms that use these techniques harvest and ship for the national chains. If the tree looks like it has been cut weeks ago, it probably was.
Stay away from trees that have been displayed in the Arizona sun. Our sun is so intense, the air so dry and windy, that just a few days of standing in our mountain sun can make the difference between a tree that will make it safely to Christmas and one that is a tinder box waiting to self-ignite .
Some natural needle drop from last spring is expected, but any brown needles should be in the middle of the tree, not dropping off the branches’ tips. Green needles leaping off the branch as your hand glides across the branch is never good; stay away from those trees no matter how fresh they look. Fresher green needles will stay on the tree.
Not all trees are equal when it comes to freshness. At Watters we sell three different varieties of Christmas trees. In order of longest lasting freshness to the shortest lived cut tree they are: Fraser fir, Nordmann fir, and the Douglas fir, which dries out the fastest of all the varieties. Of course, shape, size, color, and texture all go into choosing a Christmas tree, but if you’re stuck on making a decision, use our 3-tree freshness guide.
A fresh tree should be heavy, because as the tree loses moisture it loses weight. If deciding between two trees, choose the heavier one. A tree retaining less water will dry out more quickly.
A big trunk indicates a tree that can last longer because it can retain lots of water. The trunk of any tree is much like a cluster of straws glued together. The capillaries store and move water up through the trunk. The larger the trunk, the more water-retaining straws there are, and the “fresher” a tree will be. The wider the trunk, the better; just make sure it will fit your Christmas tree stand!
This may be the season to upgrade your stand. I especially like the rebar Christmas tree stands made by Purcell Manufacturing. A stainless steal spike holds the tree perfectly straight, even out-of-doors in the wind, and easily holds 1 ½ gallons of water. If unsure about which stand to choose, ask for advice on the best one for your tree.
‘Cloud Cover’ guarantees a tree will last through the New Year. This clear spray is used to coat the needles with a festive sheen; but, more importantly, it prevents the tree from perspiring. If the tree doesn’t lose moisture through its needles it will retain more water and stay fresher longer. Cloud Cover is a must for very dry homes or those that are kept on the warmer side of their thermostats.
Tree Preservative added to the water basin really works! It keeps a tree’s pores open and allows water uptake deeper into the tree. Stay away from adding sugar or carbonated drinks; they simply clog the tree’s system and reduce water absorption. Trees can drink over a pint of water each day, so check the water level daily and supply lukewarm water as needed. All the more reasons for a tree stand that holds a gallon or more of water.
For you e-readers, hit the share button so your friends and followers can have all this information and become Christmas tree expert buyers just as you have!
Until next week, I’ll see you amongst the Christmas trees.