Friday, December 4, 2009

The Story of the Cut Christmas Tree

Hello again,

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website ( to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Here is some of what Paul had to say this past week:

It is the time to visit your local nursery to select your fresh-cut Christmas tree. Most of us take the Christmas tree for granted each year, buying it and decorating it without much thought. This year I want you to know the story of the Christmas tree; it will change how you see your tree.

This is a once-upon-a-time story. It starts far away in the mountains of Germany, where the tradition of bringing a evergreen tree into house for Christmas began. The evergreen tree was brought into the house to ensure health and happiness through the season and the spring greening of Mother Earth. As people emigrated to other parts of the world they took the tradition with them and the popularity grew.

In America the tree grew from a table tree to a full-size floor-to-ceiling tree. As its popularity increased each year, problems rose due to unrestricted cutting of the tree in the forested areas. Conservationists warned then-President Theodore Roosevelt that if he did not act fast, the nation's forests would be depleted in just a few years. By 1900, roughly half of our timber had been cut--not, of course, all for Christmas trees. The topsoil was washing away and many birds were approaching extinction.

Fearing that our great forests would be destroyed, the President banned the Christmas tree from his home and urged everyone to do the same. Unfortunately for theP resident, his two children did not listen to their father and smuggled a tree into the closet of their room. As punishment for their deeds, the children were sent to the office of the National Forest and Parks Service to hear the explanation of the problem. To the President's surprise they came back with a plan that would help thin the forest selectively and save the tradition of Christmas trees. New conservation practices helped to relieve the strain of the tree shortages, and the forests were saved from unnecessary destruction.

Some years later, his cousin President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a farm in Hyde Park N.Y., and in an effort to encourage soil conservation he experimented with growing Christmas trees commercially. He chose land that was too stony to farm, too steep to plow or otherwise unsuitable for cultivation crops. The project was a success and he encouraged others to do the same.

The Christmas tree farmer became a American hero. Tree farming helped relieve the pressure on our forest, preventing erosion of our soils, helped prevent the extinction of some wildlife and created thousands of new jobs on land unsuitable for farming. The Christmas tree of today is possible because of two children, Archie and Quentin Roosevelt, who wanted something badly enough to work for it and their father, who helped make it possible. So you see, there is more to our president than the teddy bear and the Rough Riders.

By the way, the state of Maine was the home of the Christmas tree for America. The first Christmas trees sold in Boston came from Maine--and many still do. Maine had the best growing conditions, soil and climate for the balsam fir tree. Then and today the balsam fir is the number one selling Christmas tree in America from Maine to Florida and west to California. The tree has everything we want for the house--fragrance, color, hardiness, shape and affordability.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
December 4, 2009

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