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Christmas Tree Hunting

Christmas comes but once a year, and picking out the perfect tree to jolly up the living room is a family ritual full of fun and promise.  But with all the different types of trees out there, it’s hard to know which one is right for your holiday display. And knowing how to keep it green and fragrant once you deck it out is a talent that eludes many a yuletide reveler.  Here area few ideas on how to pick your tree, put your tree up and different types of tree species you can choose from.

Before You go get the tree:

Measure height of the ceiling where it will be placed.  Remember to subtract the height of your stand and the tree topper you plan on using.

Clear the space where you will be placing the tree, determining how deep the tree can be.  You do not want the branches to be squishing against the wall.

Know the size of your stand as the trunk needs to fit in it and that it will hold your tree up right.

Picking the right tree:
Test the branches. Grab any branch on the tree between your thumb and forefinger, gently clamp down and pull towards yourself. If you end up with a handful of needles, the tree is already past its prime.

Crush the needles in your hand and then check the scent.  If the tree doesn’t smell enough, don’t buy it.

Bounce the tree by holding it a few inches above the ground and dropping it. If the exterior needles fall off, it’s sure sign of a bad apple. Needles that fall off from the interior of the tree are normal.

Make absolutely sure the tree’s trunk fits your stand. Trimming the diameter of the tree by cutting away the bark will strip the tree of its cambium layer, which absorbs water. If this happens your tree is a goner.

Prepare your tree

Before you tie up the tree, have the lot attendant put it through a shaker (if they have one—some farms use a blower, though a vigorous bounce will do as well). This will shake off any dead, interior needles. Don’t worry—it’s perfectly natural for an evergreen to have some dead needles on it from fall. Then have the tree sent through the baling machine to wrap it in netting for easy transport.

Cutting the end off the trunk is critical to opening up the veins that will deliver water to the branches. Use a pruning saw, and take at least an inch off. You can have the lot/farm do it before you leave if you’re headed for home, but you should wait if you’re going to be out more than four hours. Otherwise, the end will glaze over with new pitch, and the tree won’t take up water.

Now you’ll have to fit the tree into the stand. Most stands have small prongs in the bottom to hold the center of the tree. After the trunk has been cut you may have to remove a few bottom limbs so that you can make contact with those prongs and the bottom of the trunk rests on the bottom of the tree stand—if not, the tree could swing side to side. While the tree is still wrapped in mesh, place it on its side and use a rubber mallet to drive the stand’s prongs securely onto the trunk before tightening up the thumbscrews that hold the tree in the stand. Before tilting the tree vertical, set down some newspaper or an old rug under where the stand will be to catch any spilled water.

Once the tree is upright, add clean water—a lot of it—as soon as possible. A tree can suck up to a gallon of water in the first few days, so be diligent on re-filling with clean water. Never let the water level drop beyond the cut end or you run the risk of pitch forming, which will seal off the tree’s ability to absorb water.

With the tree upright and hydrated, cut off the mesh and spread out the branches. Most trees will settle and open up over a couple of hours, so you should wait to start hanging lights and ornaments. Then check all your lights for shorts and trouble spots before you string the tree, and never ever put the tree near the fireplace or lighted candles.  Also, keep glass ornaments higher on the tree, especially in households with small children, or pets, who might knock them over an break them. Then enjoy your decorations for the duration, until it’s time to take everything down.

When the tree is done:

There are a few ways to recycle your tree when the holidays are over. Chop it into smaller pieces and put it directly right into your compost pile, or put it through the chipper to make mulch.  If you need to throw it away, check with your town—most schedule set days for tree pickup.  Denver does a tree recycling program where you can pick up mulch made from the trees for free in the spring.

Most popular tree species:

The classic tree (and the least expensive) in the Northeast is a balsam fir. It has a deep green color, excellent needle retention, and is one of the most aromatic of all the Christmas trees. The balsam fir has dark green needles, needles that stay put, and is very fragrant.

The up and comer all along the east coast is the Fraser fir. It’s sort of a cousin to the balsam fir—very, very attractive needles, referring to the bluish silver underside found on the branches of this species.  Frasers also have good needle retention. A Frasers  needles are typically 3/4 of an inch long with a shiny dark green top and silvery bottom.

The more expensive choice for the Northeast—but the popular and budget/local choice in the Northwest—is the Douglas fir. It’s more portly in shape, with a paler green color, and soft needles—which make it child friendly. However, the limbs are a bit dainty and will bend under heavy ornamentation.
Needle color is either dark green or blue green and emit a sweet scent when crushed.

From North Carolina to Texas, the Arizona cypress is a hit. It has a steel blue color with soft needles and a lemony mint aroma.This cypress has plenty of smaller needles and its color ranges from pale green to gray green.

But the biggest seller—and low-budget choice—in the South is pine, particularly Virginia pine, with its straight trunk and a classic pine scent. However, Virginia pine, has a lot of pitch, the natural resin that makes the branches and trunk sticky.  The classic pine scent of the Virginia makes it a popular choice inside the house, and they respond well to trimming making them a good choice for landscape.

If you’re allergic to pitch you might consider the Leyland cypress; which has very little scent or pitch and a deep green color. Not a naturally occurring tree, this hybrid of Monterey cypress and Alaskan cedar is propagated by rooted cutting only.

In the Mid-Atlantic states, the eastern white pine shows up in most tree lots. It’s a basic, inexpensive pine that grows well at low altitudes. One of the most popular Christmas trees, and with soft needles could be safer around small children.

In the colder parts of the Midwest, the hardy Scotch pine, which grows well near the Canadian border, gets glowing recommendations for its soft, hairlike, striped needles and its ability to stand up well to transportation. Also called Scotch, this pine had a dark green color and stiff branches that won’t buckle under heavy lighting and ornamentation

Tree lovers in the Southwest usually go for the Monterey pine, which is deep green in color and has medium length needles and a bushy overall appearance.
Is a fast-growing tree that’s adaptable to a broad range of soil types and climates, in a good situation it can reach its full height in 40 years.

In the West, especially around the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado blue spruce is a local favorite. It has a rounded pyramid shape, which gives it a very full appearance. It has fragrant but sharp needles, and a silvery or bluish color.Blue spruces reach heights of 65 to 115 feet outdoors, but the narrow, pyramidal shape makes it a Christmas tree favorite.

Thanks for your time, and happy tree hunting! I hope this helps………..

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