Choosing A Christmas Tree

COLMA, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Customers purchase C...

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Strong branches suited to bearing decorations, an attractive pyramidal form, shiny green foliage and lovely aroma make the balsam fir most desired for Christmas tree use. The needles are soft tipped, enabling you to decorate it with greater ease and preventing the small children from being scratched when they brush against it.

Types of Christmas Trees

The Douglas fir from the great Northwest has all the qualities of the Balsam fir, plus better form and texture. Most desirable, it retains needles longer than any of the other evergreen under house temperatures. However the branches are more limber than the Balsam fir and cannot bear as many ornaments without drooping.

The Norway Spruce, pyramidal and stately, lends itself to larger and stronger decoration than the softer fir. The needles are about one inch long, bristle out all around the stem, and are stiff and sharp to the touch. It keeps well. The Balsam and Spruce are available from 2 feet up.

Norway Pine is used in many sections where it grows in profusion but is not generally as desirable as the others for Christmas tree use. The plume-type branches with their dark green 3″ needles lend themselves to the fashioning of smaller trees where the emphasis is on bold form with a minimum of decoration. Scotch Pine is less rugged than Norway Pine, more open in branch structure, and has shorter and more bristly needles. Both trees have good keeping qualities.

Redcedar and arborvitae with their closely overlapping needles form an almost solid cone or column-like mass which recommends them for a decorative scheme calling for a slender column. The needles of the Redcedar are picky and slightly irritating to the skin and are so placed on the branch they seem like long overlapping fingers interlocked to form an almost solid mass. The foliage is a soft green to misty gray green, which recommends it for soft color schemes. It keeps well.

Arborvitae needles are soft and fluffy, similar to a small fan in form. Its conical shape is achieved by a series of overlapping planes rising in vertical placement. These trees are not generally available on the cut tree market but if you decide their form and texture are what your scheme requires by all means search them out.

Canada Hemlock, so beautiful in its natural habitat where sunlight and blue sky filter through delicate lace branches, should be confined to use out-ofdoors, for this tree more than any of the others requires a background of shimmering light. The delicacy of its fragile branches does not suit it to ornamentation and it has very poor keeping qualities indoors.

A 36″ table-size spruce tree with its own metal holder is on the market specially treated to be fire-resistant; a synthetic sap in the holder nourishes the tree and keeps it fresh for one to three months. Available in green, silver, flocked white and pink at chain, grocery and variety stores.

Heavily flocked artificial trees which come in lovely colors may interest those who want a dramatic color effect but do not require a living tree. You might prefer to create a tree from strands of tinsel and decorate it in a suitable fashion.

my new christmas tree
Image by chris.corwin via Flickr

General Shape & Grooming of Your Christmas Tree

In selecting your tree bear in mind that the pyramidal form is the one most favored. A good proportion is to have the lowest usable branches (after broken or sparse ends are removed) one half the height of the tree. Measure the width of the spot it is to occupy and buy a tree nearest to these measurements for greatest economy. If your tree is not perfect you can improve its form by cutting a branch from the back. Bore a hole the size of the branch in the main stem of the tree where it is to be inserted. Force the branch into the hole. Fasten a strong No. 14 wire around the branch above and below. Make sure the wire is close to the trunk of tree so it will be inconspicuous. Take a finer wire and reinforce the branch nearer the middle to insure against its breaking when decorated.

The columnar tree should be full and well rounded. You may be able to trim it slightly but you cannot doctor it as you can the pyramidal forms.

We hope you have decided well before Christmas on the theme for the year, the color scheme, and the type of ornament. Shop early. Two weeks ahead should assure a complete selection or enable you to place an order if you require a particular tree.

It is important that the tree be fresh. If the needles feel rubbery and alive, and if the cut end exudes a gummy sticky substance you may be sure it is reasonably fresh. Avoid trees whose needles have turned brown in spots or that fall when shaken gently.

Trees which have a trunk length from seven to ten inches below the lowest usable branch allow for the necessary recutting when preparing the tree for placement.

Conditioning The Tree

Allow your tree to remain out-of-doors, protected from the sun and severe winds until ready for use. Rain and snow are good for it. Lacking help from the weatherman, spray the whole tree once or twice to keep the needles moist. About a week before Christmas recut the trunk on a deep diagonal or deep V in order to expose as much surface for water consumption as possible. Place upright in a container of water. Add either of the following to the water as a stimulant:

1 cup of sugar, molasses or syrup, or 1 teaspoonful of plant fertilizer, to each quart of water.

Do not take the tree directly into your heated room from outside. Rather take it first to a cool basement room for a day, then move it to its final location. A gradual transition will be less of a shock and will help prolong its beauty and life.

The holder for your tree should contain water or, lacking that, set the tree in a pail. Fill in with rocks and sand and add water.

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