This week, along with living Christmas trees, large numbers of poinsettias, Christmas cacti, cyclamen and amaryllis arrived at the garden center. The holiday season is upon us; so, here we go again!
I don’t know what sparked so much interest in living Christmas trees, but I had to order two more truckloads of trees this year than I have in the past. As a matter of fact, the largest order just arrived yesterday. Exciting stuff!
Of course, any plant can be decorated and used as a holiday decoration. Over the years I've sold all types of trees as living Christmas trees, even dormant fruit trees. The most popular fir choices are: Colorado spruce - with its perfectly layered shape, Austrian pine - which looks like a mini Ponderosa pine, and Alberta spruce - cute, cuddly, and bushy.
Living trees used for Christmas and then planted outdoors are so popular that this year I brought in two new varieties for consideration. One of them, the White Pine, is long-needled like a ponderosa pine, but the needles are blue like a spruce on the top with the underside showing a noticeable white color. This two-toned tree seems to shimmer as if under cool moonlight.
The nicest crop of super fat blue Alberta spruces arrived in the most recent shipment; they’re in the perfect Christmas Tree shape and the perfect height at a max of 15 feet. With its shapely form this smaller spruce looks great when planted as an accent to the front yard or alongside the house as part of a privacy screen that grows with each year’s addition.
Here's an insider’s tip . . . shop early for living trees as the best choices of the various crops are before the end of November. The first two Saturdays after Thanksgiving always are the busiest shopping days for Christmas trees. Because people's moods are elevated when they're shopping for Christmas trees, I love this time of year. It's fun to help happy people choose the perfect trees for their holidays.
There are a few tips, tricks, and techniques for trees that will spend holiday time indoors before being planted outside. Let's go through the steps of successfully maintaining and planting a living Christmas tree.
Living Christmas trees can be kept safely indoors for 7 to 10 days. Make sure you don't exceed the 10-day rule because our winter indoor environment is very drying. Exceeding this time limit will affect the survivability of the tree.
Once the tree is indoors situate it at least 10 feet from a wood stove or fireplace. Avoid placing the tree in a sunny window and do not place it where it will receive direct flow of heat from a furnace vent. Protect trees from drying out by spraying the needles with "Wilt Stop" plant protector, a clear polymer anti-transpirant. It slows trees’ loss of water through their needles.
Check the trees daily to be sure the soil is not dry. This is very important! At the garden center we water these trees every 2 to 3 days; at home you should do the same. Vinyl saucers or plastic sheets under the trees will protect flooring from watering accidents. Ice cubes are an ideal way to water; they work like an artificial drip system as the ice slowly melts and cools and moistens the roots. Living trees can be decorated but lights should be the small miniature types as they burn without releasing heat. Do NOT use spray snow that adheres to the needles.
After the holidays living trees should be set in an unheated garage, carport, a shady protected location, or just at the North side of a house. They should be left there for a week to allow acclimation to outdoor temperatures. They have been toasty warm indoors for the holidays and now must get used to the out-of-doors. The trees should be hosed off and kept watered during this period. To allow for proper drainage be sure to remove the plastic wrap or saucers used indoors. Many people simply decorate their trees and leave them outdoors throughout the season in their entryways or on their decks or patios.
Any nice day in January is a good time to plant the trees. In the meantime, snow can load up on trees causing them to lean, especially on varieties like upright juniper, cypress, and pine so remember to use stakes to keep the trees upright. Also, remember that trees planted in winter will have to be watered twice a month. For more information ask for my free "Mountain Planting Guide”.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
I’ll see you at the garden center.
Ken Lain, "my personal mission is to help local homeowners garden smarter and get our local garden timing right." Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, or may be contacted through his web site at www.wattersonline.com