We’re not even at Thanksgiving yet, and people are bringing in their live Christmas trees, so it's time to address the issue. I'm not going to get sucked into the whole debate as to whether a live tree is better for the environment then a cut tree, as there are reams of literature supporting both arguments. I haven't actually had a tree for years, but if I did have one, I'd probably swing get one of the fantastic upscale charlie brown trees Marders is brining in this year.
However, a live tree, which you bring into the house and then plant outside afterwards, has the advantage of being dual purposed. It’s pretty once inside and then, hopefully, will continue to do so outside. The trick is to follow the following steps.
How big of a tree?
Jeff Peters of JCP Landscaping says, ‘I do this for people all the time, it’s really kind of easy, but the trick is to make sure you get the right size tree.” According Phil Bucking, the owner of the Sag Harbor Garden Center, where Jeff likes to get his trees, the best size to choose is a tree that’s about 4-5 feet tall including the height of the root ball. This means the tree is only going to be 3-4 feet tall when planted, but it’s the easiest size to handle. If you are looking to have a tree that sweeps the ceiling, maybe a live tree is not the way to go. If you want something to plant in the yard, remember you have to get it into and out of the house first, and that the taller the tree, the heavier the root ball. Any tree with it’s roots in a ball of earth wrapped in burlap is not an easy thing to manipulate up stairs and through doorways, and if it’s larger then 5’, according to Jeff Peters, “You’re not getting them in the front door.”
What kind of tree?
Although Jeff prefers the Colorado Blue Spruce, as he feels the needles are stronger, Mike Kusick from Marders is partial to Serbian Spruces. “Not everyone wants to work that traditional shape into their landscape,” he adds, pointing out that he’s also got a few fabulous blue Deodar Cedars that he’s presenting as Christmas tree options. “They can’t stay in the house for very long as they are more sensitive trees, but they’re more attractive and easier to work into a landscape.” He also pointed out that although the deodars only about 3’ high, they were on sale for 40% off, which made them seem so much taller. Phil Bucking carries both Norway and Blue Spruce and White Pines, but that he thinks the Norways are the best at acclimating
How do you care for the tree?
Once you’ve figured out how to get it in, the best technique for ensuring it’s survival is to place it in a galvanized tub, or any container that will hold water. It’s a living, breathing thing you’ve wrestled into the house, and you’re going to have to give it plenty of water to keep it alive, so make sure it’s in a waterproof container. Jeff uses bricks to balance and stabilized the tree in the tub, and says that he’s had great success with trees that have been in the house up to a week, longer then that and it starts to be too stressful for the tree. He does say that they will start dropping needles a little, “but once they’re outside they seem to recover.” He asks that the root balls of the trees are watered daily and the branches are misted as well, since the house is going to be much warmer and drier then the tree is accustomed to. Mike Kusick has the same advice, although he has a new product to help the tree survive the stress of being inside. Instead of guessing how much and how often to water, he recommends treating the trees with an organic, sugar-based product called Vacation in which you soaks the tree’s root balls before bring them into the house. “It helps the tree deal with the dehydration stress it’s undergoing and we’ve had great success with it with cut trees.” According to Mike, you only have to treat the live tree once and you don’t have to water it for the rest of the week. Care wise, Phil Bucking has the best advice of all, “If you have a shed or garage that you can use as a transition place for the tree to go for a day or two after being inside, before it goes in the ground, those trees have the best chance of survival.”
Where’s the tree going to live after Christmas?
“It would be great if people knew where they wanted the tree planted first, but most times,” says Jeff, “I just get a call telling me to go get a tree and then we have to figure it out later.” The idea of digging the hole while the ground is not frozen is a no-brainer for landscape professionals, but most people don’t think about it until it’s New Year’s Day, it’s freezing cold and they’re dragging a heavy tree all over the frozen yard trying to find the ideal place. “People are very particular about where they want their trees, and last year it was fine, but the year before with all that snow. . .” Jeff trails off. As the Farmers Almanac is predicting another long, cold and snowy winter this year, please figure out where you want the tree placed before the ground freezes. Phil recommends that you dig a hole that’s bigger then you need it to be, and to put the soil, as well as a bag or two of compost, in a shed or a garage so that it doesn’t freeze. Jeff uses Roots organic fertilizer when planting the tree, while Mike prefers liquid kelp, which is also excellent for stressed trees, or Superthrive, which has b vitamins to help plants establish roots.
All in all it doesn’t seem that difficult, but follow the experts’ advice, because if you don’t, as Phil Bucking adds, “You might as well get a cut tree because your live tree is going to be just as dead.”
Move Aside Martha.
For those of you who want to create your own holiday décor, Marders has two wreath-making workshops on November 18th and December 2nd, with a third class tentatively scheduled for the following weekend. Denise Kelly, one of their floral specialists, explained that for the first workshop people would be working with dried on a grapevine base and for the second they'd be wiring a selection of precut greens onto a form to create their own, custom wreath, which they’d then decorate with pinecones and berries. “It’s really fun to see how people respond to all the color and texture choices,” Denise says, “every wreath is different, and they’re all really pretty.”
The class is $45 for adults and $35 for children, which provides everything you need to build the wreath, with ribbons and millimeter balls costing a little bit more.
The ribbon prices are based on width, length and complexity, but with 50 plus ribbons to choose from, (and the most beautiful silver glittered baby breath branches) its hard to not want them all. Places are limited, so sign up by calling Marders at 537-3700.
Paige Patterson actually kind of lusts after the feather Christmas trees her father and Martha Stewart have.