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Garden Article Nov. 30, 2019

Christmas season is here with lots to do.  The most important one to get yourself into the holiday spirit is to select a live Christmas tree and where better to do that than at your local garden center.    Everyone knows the local garden center is the best place to buy a fresh cut tree, wreaths and greens.   Who else knows trees and greens better than your friends at the garden center?

When selecting a live Christmas tree there are several things to consider such as, overall appearance of tree, ease of decorating, fragrance, needle retention, freshness and where the tree was grown. Try to purchase a tree that was grown in Pennsylvania and the wreaths were made there too.  It’s Important to support local businesses and suppliers.

When selecting a tree, look for flexible needles that remain firmly attached when you tug on them. Knock the base of the tree on the ground and check for excessive needle drop- Keep in mind that older needles on the interior of the tree are naturally prone to shed as the tree ages. These needles will be on the brown side.  You don’t want to see to many green needles falling off the tree.

The three most common types of cut Christmas trees sold in our area are fir, pine, and spruce.  The firs, by many Christmas tree decorating officinatos, are the best type of Christmas tree.  Firs include Frasier, Douglas, and Concolor.  All have great needle retention, wonderful fragrance, strong branches, and are soft textured.

Frasier and Concolor have a more open appearance than Douglas fir and the needles on Douglas fir are not as stiff as the other two. Concolor fir smells like oranges or grapefruits, which gives it another unique feature.

The Fraser Fir may be the perfect holiday tree. Its attractive, the needles are silvery-green and soft to the touch. Because there is space between the branches, the Fraser is easier to decorate than some trees. The firm branches hold heavier ornaments. The trees grow to almost perfect shapes, and as long as the cut tree is kept properly watered, the Frasier Fir has excellent needle retention.

Concolor Firs have 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch long bluish needles, pointed or notched at the tip.  As a Christmas tree, Concolor fir has good foliage color, a pleasing natural shape and aroma that resemble grapefruit, and good needle retention.

A Douglas fir is beautiful Christmas tree with soft shiny green needles and a wonderful fragrance. Like the other firs it has great needle retention and is easy to decorate.

The most common is the Scotch pine.  The National Christmas Tree Association notes “the Scotch pine is known for its excellent needle retention and good keep-ability.  It resists drying and if permitted to become dry does not drop its needles.”  The needles are of medium length on semi-stiff branches, which makes for easy decorating, has nice color and somewhat of a fragrance and is reasonably priced.

Colorado Spruce has that traditional Christmas tree style with its spaced branches and natural pyramidal shape.  The strong branches are very capable of holding heavy ornaments plus the natural spacing of branches allows the ornaments to dangle freely.   The needles are short and stiff which can make for a little scratching to occur when decorating.  However, the end result is a beautiful traditional Christmas tree.

To ensure your tree will have good needle retention throughout the holiday season proper handling is recommended.   As soon as you get the tree home re-cut the bottom, removing about 1 to 3 inches.  Next drill a ¼” hole (give or take) in the bottom of the trunk and pack it with cotton.  This is an optional step but it will help the tree absorb more water. Next place the tree in a bucket of water until it is ready to be placed in its stand.  For added insurance mix some Superthrive plant hormone and vitamin in the water.  This will help even more in keeping the tree fresh and reducing the risk of fire.  Superthrive is good to use not only because it works but also whatever is not used can be used on houseplants, annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs.

Freshly cut trees will absorb water very quickly. Choose a stand with a large water reservoir relative to the diameter of the tree trunk. Initial water intake can be very rapid. Check the reservoir morning and evening if the tree is drinking water quickly, or if the reservoir is on the smaller side. Be certain that the water level is well above the cut at the bottom. If the cut is submerged the entire time your tree is in place your tree will last much longer.

The other important Christmas decoration to select is a beautiful mixed green wreath made from several types of fir and mixed with some juniper.  A wreath made from fir branches will last until March if outside.  If inside it will definitely last through the holidays as long as the room isn’t too hot. Misting the wreath frequently will aid in keeping it fresh indoors. Remember your deceased loved ones with a lovely Fir cemetery wreath this holiday season.

Garden Tip: Excessive heat and dry air can hasten the demise of a Christmas tree. Close heat registers near your tree, avoid placement near south and west facing windows or near an often used fireplace. If possible, turn your thermostat down at night.  If new Christmas lights are needed this year consider LED Christmas lights. They generate less heat than older types of lighting and remember to always turn the lights off when the tree is unattended.


Dave Vargo is the owner of   Kiski Plaza Garden & Feed Center (724-845-8201) in Leechburg.  Products mentioned in the article are available at the garden center.  Any questions call or email dvargokiski@comcast.net.  Like us on Facebook @kiskigardencenter.