“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, the leaves are so unchanging. Not only green when summer’s here, but also when it’s cold and drear.” The 18th-century German Christmas carol “O Tannenbaum” was translated into English in 1824 and remains a classic.
The evergreen tree was an ancient symbol of life in the midst of winter. Romans decorated their houses with evergreen branches during the New Year. In northern Europe, the tradition was to cut evergreen trees and plant them in boxes inside homes during wintertime.
There are quite a number of people who buy a tree and then end up putting it at curbside for disposal. If you are one of them, you may want to consider purchasing a potted living Christmas tree.
Some Christmas celebrations are important enough to commemorate by planting the tree that was an intimate part of that special Christmas Day.
Before you decide on using a live Christmas tree, make sure you have room for it in your landscape. Remember, little trees eventually grow into larger timber trees given time and care. They should not be used as foundation plantings. The tree should be used in living fences or as specimen plants with plenty of elbowroom.
The ideal situation would be to plan far enough ahead, giving you time to prepare a planting hole before the ground freezes. The planting hole should be three times the diameter of the root ball and as deep. Cover the hole with boards to prevent accidents. Adding 3 to 4 inches of mulch will lessen the chances of frozen soil. If possible, store the soil from digging out the hole in an area where it will not freeze.
Your tree will either be balled-in-burlap or bare-root-planted in a nursery container. As soon as you purchase the tree, check the root ball to make certain the soil is moist. If the soil feels dry, place the tree in a tub with 2 to 3 inches of warm water for one hour.
Gradually introduce your living tree from outside to inside over time. Allow three or four days using the garage or enclosed porch for acclimatization. A tree that is dormant and exposed to immediate warmth will start to grow. You want to avoid resuming active growth.
Check the tree for insects and insect egg masses before you introduce it to the indoors. Spray the needles thoroughly with an anti-transparent material such as Wilt-Pruf, which will minimize needle loss and also prevent the loss of valuable moisture that is needed to survive.
Locate your tree in the coolest part of the room and away from heating ducts. Place the containerized tree, balled-in-burlap, into a large galvanized tub or comparable container keeping the root ball intact. Since the tree is not stabilized in soil, you may have to use rocks to stabilize it. Remember, trees planted in soil in black nursery containers have drainage holes in the bottom; think about using an automotive oil pan, which is about 4 inches deep, to be sure there is no damage to the floor. Water your tree as often as necessary to moisten the roots but not keep them soggy. Never water beyond moist. Ice cubes have been suggested as a slow-release water source.
Leave your tree inside no longer than five to seven days, some experts suggest only four days. Never add nutrients or fertilizers as that may initiate growth which you don’t want to occur.
Carefully introduce your tree back outside using the reverse procedure. Reacclimate your tree to outside temperatures by storing it in a sheltered porch or in a garage for several days. Remove the mulch at the planting site and place the tree in the prepared hole making certain that the root ball is at its original planting depth or slightly higher. Fill the space around the root ball half full of soil and pack firmly.
Loosen the burlap from around the root ball and fold or cut the burlap down to the packed soil. Try to loosen and spread the roots. Finish filling the space. Water with 3 to 5 gallons allowing the water to seep into the ground.
Anchor the tree to the ground with three pieces of clothesline tied to three stakes pounded into the ground 8 to 12 inches from the trunk of the tree. To lessen the chances of bark damage, avoid using wire on the tree. Reuse the mulch under the tree after planting.
I always admired the diligence of longtime friends in Tumalo who held to the tradition of a live Christmas tree while their family was growing up. The children are grown and now there is a wonderful living fence as a reminder of all the years of holiday celebrations.
I’m toying with the idea of purchasing a dwarf tree to use for the holidays and as the first step in revamping the landscape. Then on the other hand, think of all the drooping and contorted evergreen trees that could be considered a Charlie Brown tree.
It all depends on what makes you smile.
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