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HAVING a live Christmas tree is like a giant banner hanging in your living room proclaiming, “This season, I commit to jolly.”
If you’ve always gone faux, you should know that real trees take a little more tender loving care than the fake variety. But with a few tips from local nurseries and tree farms, procuring a great-looking evergreen is a snap.
First, figure out where you plan to place this beacon of holiday cheer, so you know just how much space the tree can take up. Scout out a spot away from heat vents (warm air blasts can dry out the tree) and fireplaces (fire hazard.)
Next, it’s time to decide on tree types. All fresh-cut and live varieties have a scent, but fir and pine varieties tend to be the most fragrant.
For serious ornament collections, consider a hearty tree with strong limbs to support the weight, such as a Fraser Fir, Canadian Hemlock or a spruce variety. A minimalist approach to decorating is a better option for the limber limbs of the White Pine.
And if you are looking to add the tree to your landscape once it has been de-tinseled, go for a Blue Spruce. It will withstand the transplant better than other varieties.
And while what follows may seem obvious, humor us.
If you intend to replant a dug tree, make sure the root ball is still attached. Dug trees can only survive indoors for about two weeks, so plan your shopping accordingly.
Be sure you have an action plan for a dug tree before you make the investment, said Darren Collins, manager of Wischmeier Nursery, Columbus. They can be up to 40 feet tall and 25 feet in diameter.
Keep in mind that the tree will be about 18 inches taller if it has a root ball, said Annette Heath, owner of Heath Family Tree Farms near Ogilville. Always stand the tree upright when measuring it, Heath said. You don’t want to get it home and find it’s too large to fit in the house.
As a rule, real trees are priced by the foot, and real trees from local nurseries or tree farms will start at about $50.
Type and price aside, the last stickler to the selection process is needle retention.
Some needle-vacuuming throughout the season is inevitable, but fresh-cut Balsam and Fraser Firs, Norway Spruce and Scotch Pine varieties tend to hold on to their needles better than most, Collins said.
Now we’re ready to decorate, right? Not so fast.
“Before putting a fresh-cut tree in its stand, cut off an inch off the bottom,” Heath said. “That opens the tubes from the roots, which can be sealed with sap, so the water can go up into the tree.”
Dug trees should go in a large plastic bucket, using a rock or brick to brace the tree if necessary, Collins said.
Now find a spot in the garage or shed for the tree to warm up slightly for a few days, and make sure it’s still getting plenty of water.
“Acclimate the tree, so you don’t bring it in from the cold into a warm house,” Heath said. “And the same on the way back out. The tree will go into shock and die if you don’t.”
When you are ready to make the transition indoors, get a jump-start on managing stray needles by vigorously shaking the tree before bringing it indoors, Collins said. If you see a few dark needles inside the tree, that’s OK. Evergreens annually drop their needles, Collins said, so it’s perfectly normal to see some of that.
Check the tree every day to make sure it has plenty of water, Heath suggested, especially if your house is dry.
If you’ve opted for a dug tree, the job is only halfway done. Get out there before the ground freezes, and dig a hole for the tree that’s double the diameter of the root ball, Collins said.
“Plant the tree so the root ball is at ground level,” Collins says. “If you plant it too deep, the tree can suffocate, since it actually breathes through the upper roots and trunk.”
And don’t think you are doing the tree a favor by dumping a log of dirt around the base, Heath cautioned. The secret for successful transplanting is to make absolutely sure the top of the root ball is level with the ground.
Shopping for a tree
Wischmeier Nursery Inc.
240 Jonesville Road, Columbus
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Information: 372-4662 or wischmeiernursery.com
Heath Family Tree Farm
10770 W 650S, Columbus
9 a.m. to dark, Saturday
Noon to dark, Sunday
Hackman Christmas Tree Farm
12076 West 50S, Columbus
9 a.m. to dark, Saturday
Noon to dark, Sunday
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