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Finding the Perfect Christmas Tree

By Brian Block and James C. “Beau” Brincefield, Jr.

Think of the crackling warmth of the fire, the tables heavy with abundant food and drink, and family and friends all gathered in your living room – around the perfect Christmas tree. Yes, Christmas time is fast approaching again and, with it, comes the yearly quest for the perfect tree. Here are some guidelines for determining the perfect tree for your Christmas celebration.

Some general rules to abide by for all Christmas trees: Check the needles for freshness. Steer clear of trees with a greenish cast on their trunks and branches – could indicate that the tree was dyed or painted. Pick your tree during daylight hours – trees are hard to appraise in artificial light.

Christmas trees come in three general varieties (with sub-types of each): fir, pine, and spruce.

The best and safest Christmas trees are firs because they absorb huge amounts of water and seldom lose their needles. Firs are less of a fire hazard because of the large amount of moisture held by the tree. The fir’s short, soft needles and citrus fragrance make it an excellent choice for anyone at Christmas. The most popular firs are:

  • White fir – Smells great, has a blue color and is soft to the touch. It holds its needles the best of all firs. The Christmas tree experts seem to favor the White fir year after year.
  • Douglas fir – Often more expensive because it grows slower and has a tendency not to shed much, making it a clean guest in your living room. A 10 to 12 foot Douglas fir with lots of branches makes a beautiful display in a house with high ceilings. Most Douglas firs grow straight and are well-balanced for an easy setup.
  • Fraser fir – Easy to handle and transport. Narrow open branches decorate well and you can trim the tree all the way to the trunk.

Other good trees are the pines and spruces. The most popular varieties are:

  • Scotch pine – The Old Standard of Christmas trees. Matures quickly and shears into shape easily. Inexpensive. However, you must beware of crooked trunks and lower limbs that grow up through the tree. Holds needles relatively well.
  • White pine – If you like lacy, airy plants, this is the Christmas tree for you. Lights show through beautifully on the White pine. Soft to the touch with long thin needles. Usually will drop some needles by New Years so keep it over a blanket or a plastic cover.
  • Blue spruce – Needles are extremely sharp, so wear gloves to handle it. Does not hold leaves very well because it reluctantly absorbs fluid. However, the Blue spruce holds decorations beautifully and has a classic Christmas tree shape.

Once you’ve selected your Christmas tree , you’ll want to make a preservative before setting up the tree in your home. Here’s a quick and easy recipe that you can use if you plan ahead a little bit:

In a 5 gallon bucket, add 2 gallons of hot water, a pint of clear Karo syrup, 4 ounces of liquid chlorine bleach, 2 ounces of vinegar, a half-teaspoon of borax and 2 ounces of a “surfactant” from a garden shop. Stir these in the bucket. Cut off half an inch from the base of the tree trunk, stand the trunk in the bucket and store them in a garage or protected location outdoors. Leave your Christmas tree in the preservative for 5 days and then move the tree into your house.

Have a Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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