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DALY: Choosing and caring for live Christmas trees

Timothy Daly

Timothy Daly

With the Christmas holiday season upon us, many people will be out looking for a Christmas tree. The trees are available at a variety of sources and can be purchased either pre-cut or at cut-your-own-tree farms. Choosing the right Christmas tree is a matter of taste, but here are some guidelines to follow.

There are several species of trees used as Christmas trees. The selection of trees sold in Georgia include Virginia pine, red cedar, white pine, Leyland cypress, Scotch pine, Fraser fir, spruce and several others. Spruces and firs tend to lose their needle more quickly than pines.

The obvious advantage to buying a pre-cut tree is convenience. The retailer will make a clean cut and wrap it in a plastic mesh, making it easier to take home. The problem with pre-cut trees is they were cut weeks before at tree farms and are not fresh.

Ask the retailer at the tree lot when the trees were delivered: Were the trees delivered once at the beginning of the season, or were there multiple shipments throughout the season? Additionally, cut trees lose needles and can dry out easily, presenting a fire hazard. Lift the tree and bounce it on the ground. Very few needles should come off a fresh tree. When in doubt about the freshness of a tree, select another one.

A fresh cut Christmas tree retains its needles longer than the pre-cut trees. Most Christmas tree farms specialize in growing varieties that are adapted to local conditions, and can be sheared into the classical conical shape. Keep in mind that you will have to cut your own tree at a tree farm. You will need a sharp saw. Sometimes Christmas tree farms will provide saws. Remember the larger the tree is, the more difficult it is to bring out of the field and to transport in your vehicle.

In choosing a good tree, consider the following guidelines: Select a tree that is at least a foot shorter than the ceiling in the room where it will be displayed. If the trunk is splitting, it most likely has dried to a point that it will not be able to absorb water. Look for a tree that is healthy, damage-free and well-trimmed. It should taper gently from a full bottom to a narrow top and have enough branches for hanging ornaments. The base of the trunk should be straight and cleared of limbs six to eight inches from the bottom to allow for placement in the tree stand. The tree should have a good green appearance with few dead needles. The needles should be fresh and flexible, and should not come off if you run your hand over a branch.

Timothy Daly may be contacted by phone at 678-377-4010 or by e-mail at timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.