Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Tree! Oh Christmas Tree!

Hello again,

Terry Skillin writes a great informative piece about caring for Christmas trees and the different types we have to offer here at Skillin's.

The most common varieties of Christmas Tree is the Balsam fir (Abies balsamea), Fraser fir (Abies fraseri), Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) and White pine (Pinus strobes). We grow all of these trees in southern and central Maine for our customers in Skillin’s Country.

Out of all of these the Balsam Fir is in my opinion the most fragrant followed by the Fraser Fir. Fraser Fir and Scotch Pine are the most sturdy, Fraser Fir may stay more fresh for the longest period of time by most reports from our customers; however, with proper care all of our varieties will be beautiful throughout the Holiday season. Balsam fir and Fraser fir have the more traditional formal Christmas Tree shape while the Pines are usually a little less formal.

The firs and white pine are native to Maine and all through North America. Scotch Pine’s range originally spanned from Norway to western Asia and Siberia and has naturalized in New England. Scotch Pine has been cultivated as a landscape tree and a Christmas tree for a long time. (these facts from Dr Michael Dirr’s “Woody Plant Manual”).

The first step to keeping a tree fresh is selecting a spot in the house that is away from any heat source. Then you cut off about 2” from the butt of the tree just before standing it. (We will cut the tree for you if you like).As soon as the tree is straight in the stand (this could take15 minutes or so) add as much water as the stand will hold. Adding a Christmas Tree preservative (like Prolong—sold right here at Skillin’s) as directed to the tree water does assist the tree in picking up water. Check the water level at least twice a day and add more water up to the maximum level. If a tree is allowed to dry out during the season all of these steps may need to be repeated. (This would mean taking the tree down and re-cutting the base.) A tree will stay fresher in a cooler room. We do offer Christmas Tree setup services at a reasonable price!

When you regularly water your Christmas Tree you are going a long way to keeping the tree safe from any fire hazards. If a full size tree is used in a home with young children and active pets make sure the tree stand is a suitable size to match the tree it is holding. Bigger is better, and a quality tree stand will last many years so the purchase can often be a “onetime life event” if your quality tree stand is stored properly with all its parts. We have found the need some years to tie the top of the tree to two small eyelets that we put into the ceiling molding because the tree stand is not big enough! Better to have a big enough tree stand! We can help you with that right here at Skillin’s!

Many customers like to decorate their homes with living evergreens as their Christmas Tree. This can be done and there are many “pro’s” to this proposition. With each tree you are adding a valuable plant to your yard that can have a lasting effect on your home. These trees can serve multiple purposes such as nesting and feed areas for birds and creating wind blocks against strong winter winds. They also create a visual record of the Holidays and great family moments. Here is a key point: Live trees should only be indoors for 5 to 7 days and then returned outdoors. The process of returning them outdoors is better if the tree can go from the warm home to a cool garage or breezeway for two days before going outside. Live trees are heavy because of the earth root ball and a 3 to 4 foot tree is usually all customers want to handle. (60-90 pounds) On the “con side of the coin” live trees are usually smaller than fresh cut Christmas trees but heavier and as we just stated they can only remain indoors for 5 to 7 days. The tree should be planted once it returns outdoors and with snow fall and frozen ground this too can be a challenge. It is best to dig the hole while the weather is still fair and then to store the soil from the hole indoors so it won’t freeze.

Terry Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
November 29, 2009

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