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Growing Green: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas trees

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again.

In some households, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, they are out looking for their Christmas tree.

Other families wait until Christmas Eve to put up their tree.

No matter what your tradition, it is important to choose the right tree to fit your needs.

There are some basic steps to take to ensure your tree’s freshness.

One of the first steps is to wrap your tree before going home, or if possible, put it in your car or van.

Driving home with your tree on top of the car is not the best idea. When you do this, you are subjecting your tree to 35- to 65 miles-per-hour winds as you drive, which can quickly dry out even the freshest tree.

Once you are home, cut at least one inch from the base of the tree and place it in a bucket of lukewarm water. If you are not planning to put the tree up right away, avoid placing it near sun or drying winds.

Once you are ready to put place the tree, use a clean, sterilized stand with an adequate water reservoir. Avoid placing the tree near any heat source such as a wood stove, heat vents or television. Any undue heat will dry out your tree that much faster.

The type of tree you select depends on what you are looking for. Do you want a tree to last a long time or is that fresh “Christmas” smell more important?

Are small children involved in decorating? If so, avoid trees with sharp needles.

If cats are a problem, sharp needles may be just what you are looking for.

To help you choose which tree would be best for you, look at the most common types you can buy.

Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris):

Probably one of the most popular trees of choice. They have very good needle retention, and they have a nice full shape. The color can range from green to blue-green. Needles tend to be short (one inch) and only slightly sharp.

White pine (Pinus strobus):

Needles are long and soft. Needle retention is fair, lasting a couple of weeks. Popular for its softness and great pine fragrance.

Balsam fir (Abies balsamea):

For the traditionalist, this is the only “true” Christmas tree. They have short, flat needles that are green on top and silvery-white below. The needles are soft, and their retention is good, lasting about three weeks. Balsam fir is known for its great fragrance.

Fraser fir (Abies fraseri):

It is similar to the balsam fir except it is less fragrant and its needle retention is a little better.

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii):

As the scientific name reveals, this is not a “true” fir. It is one of the most popular trees throughout the United States. Needles are short and not too sharp, with a deep green to blue-green color and has excellent needle retention.

Colorado “blue” spruce (Picea pungens):

Quite popular, especially those with the ice-blue coloring. However, the needles are very sharp, and the tree is difficult to decorate. Needle retention is fair (two to three weeks).

Norway spruce (Picea abies):

Norways are popular for their shape. Needles are short and sharp with a rich green color. The tree has a very nice fragrance when fresh. Unfortunately, needle retention is very poor. Needles begin to fall with a week. At best, the tree will only last two weeks.

When purchasing a tree, always ask how fresh it is. Make sure it was not cut more than a few weeks in advance of the sale.

To test for freshness, run your hand along a branch and see if any needles come off. If more than a few come off, the tree isn’t very fresh.

“Growing Green” is contributed by Diane Dorn, Lehigh County Extension Office Staff, and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-813-6613.