Picking out the perfect Christmas tree is a yearly family tradition for many of us not using an artificial tree. 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 important.
Andy Campbell, a Lancaster County Farm Bureau member and manager of Campbell’s Nurseries Landscape Department in Lincoln, shares a few tips on how to pick the right tree and make sure it lasts through your Christmas celebrations, and maybe into the New Year.
“Before you head out to a nursery or tree farm, make sure you know just what size tree you can fit in your house,” Andy says. Measure the height of your ceiling but remember to subtract the height of your stand and the tree topper to get the maximum tree height you can fit. Also, clear the space where you’ll put the tree and see how deep it is.
“Different species of trees are different widths, so you want to be sure you won’t be squishing the branches against the wall. And keep an eye on the size of your stand. You want to be sure the trunk of your tree will fit in it, and that it’s big enough to keep your tree upright,” Andy said. “If in doubt, bring your stand with you and have it checked by the sales staff where you are buying your tree.
Smell and Touch Test
Once you find a place to buy your tree give it the smell and touch test. 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,” Andy says. Next bounce the tree by holding it a few inches above the ground and dropping it. Needles that fall off from the interior of the tree are normal. But if the exterior needles fall off, it’s sure sign of a dry tree.
Make a Fresh Cut
Cutting the end off the trunk is critical to opening up the veins that will deliver water to the branches, Andy says. “Many places selling Christmas trees will cut your tree and place it in your tree stand on the for free. Some even offer free delivery of your tree to your home. If these services aren’t offered, then use a pruning saw and take at least an inch off. You can have the nursery or farm attendants do it before you leave,” he says. After the trunk has been cut you may have to remove a few bottom limbs so that you can make sure the bottom of the trunk rests on the bottom of the tree stand. Once the tree is upright, add clean water—a lot of it—as soon as possible.
“The first couple of days the tree is going to suck up a lot of water,” Andy says. Be vigilant the first two days, refilling when the stand gets low until the levels stay steady. Never let the water level drop beyond the cut end,” Andy says.
With the tree upright and hydrated, cut off the mesh and spread out the branches if the tree was wrapped for transport. Most trees will settle and open up over a couple of hours, so wait before you start hanging lights and ornaments. Never ever put the tree near the fireplace or lighted candles. Enjoy your decorations for the duration, until it’s time to take everything down, he says, and don’t forget to buy a disposal bag when you buy the tree for easier take down of the tree when the season is done.
There are a few ways to recycle your tree when the holidays are over. You could cut the tree into smaller pieces and put it directly into your compost pile or through a chipper to make mulch. If you don’t have a use for it, drop it off at a christmas tree recycling location near you.
Know Your Trees: The variety and popularity of Christmas trees varies geographically. Here are a few that you should consider when finding the right Christmas tree.
Balsam or Frasier Fir
To many, the classic Christmas tree is usually a Balsam or Frasier Fir. They have a deep green color, excellent needle retention, and are one of the most aromatic of all the Christmas trees.
Another popular choice is the Douglas Fir. It’s 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.
The White Pine is a basic, inexpensive pine and one of the most popular Christmas trees, and with soft needles could be safer around small children.
A popular tree in the Midwest is the hardy Scotch Pine. This pine has a dark green color and stiff branches that won’t buckle under heavy lighting and ornamentation.
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. The narrow, pyramidal shape makes it a Christmas tree favorite.
Finding the right Christmas Tree for your home can be fun for the whole family. For more information go to www.campbellsnursery.com or find a local Christmas tree farm at www.nebraskachristmastreegrowers.com.