The four main types of fresh-cut trees being sold in the central highlands this season are all firs: the Noble, Douglas, Grand, and Nordman. If you are worried about your tree becoming a matchstick just waiting to go up in flames, or if you just want the fragrance to last well into the New Year, only two of these trees will meet these criteria.
The Noble and Nordman stay fresh longer than the other firs. The branch structure and the base of each of these varieties is larger, which translates into the tree’s ability to retain more water. The thick needles also have a waxy sheen that prevents these two firs from dehydrating via rapid perspiration. Because of these characteristics both trees retain the moisture that keeps them “fresh” longer than other trees.
The same qualities for freshness apply to the fresh wreaths, garlands, and swags for front doors, mantles, and decorative tables. For these decorative pieces you want the freshest greens that have been dipped in preservatives to keep them looking good longer. Mixed greens made from the right fir tree is a must, but also look to those constructed of juniper berries, pinecones, and holly leaves. These greens also hold their freshness for quite a long while before turning crispy.
Three factors play important roles in how long a tree will maintain its freshness: the moisture in the tree itself, placement of the tree in your home, and the local weather. If a couple of good moist storms roll through the area while the tree is set up, the extra moisture keeps the trees from drying out too quickly. Of course, there’s nothing we can do about the weather, but we can control the other two factors that will extend the enjoyment of our Christmas trees. These tips also apply to fresh garlands and wreaths.
Tip 1: To test the tree of your choice simply grasp a needle between your thumb and forefinger and bend it. A needle from a fresh tree should have good color, emit a strong fragrance, and bend rather than break.
Tip 2: A fresh tree should be substantially heavy, a good indication that the tree has plenty of moisture left in its trunk and limbs. The larger the trunk, the more moisture the tree can retain; just make sure the trunk isn’t too large for your tree stand. This might be the year to upgrade your stand.
Tip 3: Make a fresh cut across the base of the trunk and immediately place it in a large container of lukewarm water. If the water level is allowed to drop below the cut, a seal will form reducing water uptake, so check the water level often.
Tip 4: Add liquid ‘tree preservative’ to your tree stand’s water basin. An additive keeps the tree pores open and allows water uptake deeper into the tree. Stay away from adding sugar or carbonated drinks to the water; they simply clog the tree’s system and reduce water absorption. Trees can absorb over a pint of water each day, so check the water level daily and supply fresh warm water as needed. These all are reasons for a tree stand that holds a gallon or more of water. A good stand should easily hold a tree straight up without special tie downs and have a capacity of 1½ gallons of water. Again, this may be the year to upgrade your stand.
Tip 5: Place the tree away from south-facing windows. Close or remove heat sources blowing directly onto the tree, and keep it away from a fireplace or stove. All of these sources of warmth can zap moisture from the tree in a matter of days.
Tip 6: ‘Anti-Stress 2000’ is my choice of application to guarantee that a tree will last through the New Year. This clear spray coats the needles with a festive sheen that prevents the tree from perspiring, so it maintains its freshness longer. If you have worried about your tree being a fire hazard, and you should, I highly recommend this added step. Our family tree will be an eight-foot tall Nordman that will be sprayed with ‘Anti-Stress 2000’. It not only provides peace of mind, it reduces needle cleanup after the celebrating is over. Fortunately, ‘Anti-Stress 2000’ has the same effect on fresh wreaths and garlands.
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Plant of the Week is a hanging basket of the freshest mixed greens decorated with festive holiday balls, pinecones, and ornamental picks. A lone fresh wreath is so last year compared to fresh hanging baskets that can be hung in the same places where your flowers have been showing off earlier in the year. Made to be placed on tables, used as centerpieces, and hung by the front door, hanging baskets are the newest decorative pieces. Yes, traditional wreaths are “tried and true” decorations, but this year you might consider using florist-grade hanging baskets.
Until next week, I’ll see you amongst the Christmas greens.