Many varieties to consider when selecting a treeWhen I was young, like most kids, I looked forward to decorating the Christmas tree. Some years, our family would select a native tree growing in the Badlands. As the shelterbelt surrounding our farm grew, our trees came from closer to home. We had fun trying to smear each other with sap, which oozed from the tree. Christmas traditions have changed and most people now purchase their trees from local stands. Here are a few tips to help you make your selection.
By: Sandy Eckelberg, The Jamestown Sun
When I was young, like most kids, I looked forward to decorating the Christmas tree. Some years, our family would select a native tree growing in the Badlands. As the shelterbelt surrounding our farm grew, our trees came from closer to home. We had fun trying to smear each other with sap, which oozed from the tree. Christmas traditions have changed and most people now purchase their trees from local stands. Here are a few tips to help you make your selection.
Before shopping for a tree, scout out where it will be located in your home. Avoid spots close to heat sources like TVs, fireplaces, radiators and air ducts. Measure the height you have available to avoid modifying your “too tall” Christmas tree later. Find a holiday tree one foot shorter than your ceiling height.
Choose a fresh Christmas tree by looking for the greenest tree with the fewest brown needles. A problem here can be that many shipped-to-lot trees have been colored prior to shipping. With this in mind, remember that coloring is a common practice and will not negatively affect a tree’s freshness.
Perform the “drop test.” Raise the Christmas tree a few inches and drop it on its butt end. Green needles should not drop off. If they do, you have a tree with excessive drying and that may have been cut for some time. A few inner brown needles from the tree’s annual shed will drop off so do not be concerned with this. This test is only reliable on trees which are in a warmed sales area. If trees are frozen, needles will break off when the tree is dropped.
The needles should be resilient. Take hold of a branch and lightly pull your hand toward you allowing the branch to slip through your fingers. Most, if not all, of the needles need to stay on the tree.
Always inspect the Christmas tree’s base. Make sure the “handle” (the first eight inches of butt) of the tree is relatively straight. This part of the tree is extremely important when securing the tree in a stand. Make sure removing any limbs attached to the “handle” won’t hurt the tree shape.
The variety of trees available can cause some confusion. Here’s a brief description of some of the more popular trees:
* Noble fir has upturned needles, exposing the lower branches. The tree is outstanding in its beauty, has a long cut life and its stiff branches make for using heavy ornaments.
* White pine retains needles throughout the holiday season but has little or no fragrance and is not a good tree for heavy ornaments. The tree is sought by people who suffer from allergic reactions to more fragrant trees.
* Scotch pine tree has stiff branches and dark green needles 1 to 3 inches long that are retained for four weeks. The aroma is long-lasting and lingers through the entire season. Scotch pine does not drop needles when dry.
In a poll taken by the National Christmas Tree Association, Fraser fir was ranked as the favorite fresh Christmas tree. This fir has dark green needles, 1/2 to 1 inch long. The tree has excellent needle retention along with a nice scent.
Balsam fir is a beautiful pyramidal tree with short, flat, long-lasting, aromatic needles. Balsam fir and Fraser fir have many similar characteristics. Balsam fir has a nice, dark green color and is very fragrant.
Once your tree is home, take steps to keep it as fresh as possible. Refresh the tree by making a straight cut, taking one inch off the butt and immediately place in water. This will improve water uptake. Place the tree in a stand that can hold at least one gallon of water. You should expect the tree to take up additional water. Water the new tree until water uptake stops.
Always keep the base of a tree in water. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly. You don’t need anything other than regular tap water. Commercially prepared mixes like aspirin, sugar and other additives introduce into the water are not necessary. Research has shown that plain water will keep a tree fresh.
Fresh Christmas trees are a wonderful way to keep old traditions and to inspire new ones.