2014-12-04 / From The Garden

Choosing a Tree That's Tops

By Cynthia Gibson

The trunks are neatly trimmed for easier cutting at Spruce Acres Farm. (Photos by Cynthia Gibson) The trunks are neatly trimmed for easier cutting at Spruce Acres Farm. (Photos by Cynthia Gibson) It is Christmas tree season, and your hunt is just about to begin. What is the perfect tree for Christmas? As with so many other things, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, a few good hints for buying a tree just might be in order.

Do you like trees with long or short needles? Strong fragrance or mild? Delicate or fat? Short or tall? The four top-selling and most fragrant Christmas trees are Douglas fir, Fraser fir, balsam, and Scotch pine.

This checklist will help you select the perfect tree for you.

Your first decision is whether to make selecting your tree an outing that might include a cozy luncheon, or to go straight to a lot and pick out a beauty. If the idea of a day of Christmas tree shopping and chopping is your idea of fun, you will want to visit one of the Christmas tree farms in our area. Do not wait until next week to select or tag your tree, as they are picked over very quickly.

You can also find fresh-cut trees at most garden centers. Here are some things to remember while choosing your tree:

. For longevity: The Nova Scotia variety of Canada balsam lasts longest, and it is very fragrant. A fresh tree should last in the house for four to six weeks. The base of the tree should be cut right before you take it home and then placed into a large bucket of water. The tree should remain outdoors in the bucket of water for one to two days before you bring it indoors. Saw off a half inch of the trunk of the tree just before carrying the tree into the house. Once inside, keep your tree away from heat sources.

. If you have few decorations: The Douglas fir is your best choice. It has long needles and is quite an elegant tree all by itself.

. Freshness: If a tree feels light for its size, it has already started drying out. You should be able to bend a branch and it should snap right back. If it takes its time snapping, keep looking. You can also run your gloved hand along a branch of needles, and if they fall right off, the tree is stale. Also, giving the tree a good firm shake will easily show you how many needles drop off the tree. No needles should drop off if the tree is fresh. Of course, the freshest tree is one you see cut before your very eyes.

. The tree stand: The stand must be sturdy and hold water. If the tree is over six feet tall, it will need extra anchoring, such as tying a rope from the center trunk of the tree to a doorknob of a locked door. There are also heavy duty stands for trees up to 12 feet tall, but expect to spend over $90 for one of these. Then there is the “marriage saver” tree stand, also called the Stand Straight, that needs a drilled hole in the base of the tree.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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