The Changing Face Of Christmas Trees

LIVING

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If a several-year trend continues, cut Christmas trees are going the way of the dinosaurs.

"Cut Christmas tree sales have just gone down over the last three to four years," Plant Fair Nursery owner Glen McCombs said. "People are just buying artificial."

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Wal-Mart employee Chris Schmid, a newcomer to Payson, points out the advantages of artificial Christmas trees. "It's the only way to do it...," he said. "It's a one-time deal."

It's no surprise to Chris Schmid, who works in Wal-Mart's garden department.

"We're selling lots (of artificial trees)," Schmid said. "It's the only way to do it. There's less mess. It's a one-time deal."

Wal-Mart's artificial trees range in size from two to seven feet, and in price from $15 to $179.

"The fiber optics trees seem to be the most popular," Wal-Mart garden department manager Cindy Bauer said.

Alternatives to artificial trees are live trees that can be planted outside once Christmas is over.

"It's always better to plant live trees in your yard after you use them as Christmas trees in your home," Vista, Calif.-based garden consultant Lorie Johansen said. "It's the recycling philosophy."

Plant Fair has many varieties of live trees and a good selection available. Prices begin at $14.99 and go up to $109.

"In live trees, our very best ones are the dwarf Alberta spruce, Colorado blue spruce, and Austrian pine," McCombs said.

Other options for live trees include the blue point juniper, Carolina cypress, and even arborvitaes.

In live trees, Wal-Mart only offers a Halepesis pine in a 5-gallon container for $17.97, but Bauer plans to contact other vendors for some additional varieties.

One very important consideration when selecting a live tree is the eventual size the tree will attain once planted in your yard.

"You wouldn't want to plant a tree of great magnitude, which most of the (live) Christmas trees are, in a small yard because now it becomes a fire problem, a litter problem on your roof," Johansen said. "There are just a few Christmas trees that are small enough to go into small city yards."

Looking at the tag on a Colorado blue spruce at Plant Fair, Johansen emphasized her point.

"The Colorado blue spruce has a moderate growth rate of 80 to 100 feet," she said. "People need to read the tag and see what it's going to be."

Trees that will work in smaller yards are usually hybrids and are easy to identify.

"They're probably going to have the words ‘dwarf' or ‘pygmy' or something that means ‘small' within their names," Johansen said.

McCombs agrees, but points out that a lot of Rim country homeowners have built on large lots or parcels and can therefore plant bigger trees. For people with outdoor space issues, he recommends the dwarf Alberta spruce.

"It's going to get maybe three feet across by eight feet tall, so that's the smallest," he said.

Although they're declining in popularity, cut trees are still abundant. Wal-Mart's first shipment arrived Thanksgiving night about 11 p.m., while Plant Fair expects its first shipment momentarily.

At Wal-Mart, Noble firs begin at $19.94 for a 3.5-footer, according to Bauer. A 5-6-foot Noble is $39, while 6-7 and 8-9-foot Nobles are $46 and $79 respectively.

Douglas firs at Wal-Mart are $26.33 for a 6-7-footer and $39.83 for an 8-9-footer. Bauer said she expects two or three more shipments before Christmas.

Plant Fair's cut trees will start at $19.99 for a 5-6-foot Douglas fir, with Nobles starting at $30. Plant Fair also plans to offer Fraser firs and Grand firs.

"We're always cheaper (than Wal-Mart) on Douglas firs and more expensive on Noble firs," McCombs said.

Because they use a smaller grower that doesn't warehouse trees, McCombs believes his trees are likely to be fresher than Wal-Mart's

"It's one of the reasons we chose this grower," he said. "He gave us the tour, and he said, ‘We cut like crazy and we ship like crazy.

"It takes a huge grower to supply places like Home Depot and Wal-Mart. They have to start cutting in August."

Whatever type of tree Rim country residents choose, it should be a bounteous season.

"There's going to be a lot of Christmas trees," McCombs said, "and we have some that are gorgeous."

Plant Fair Nursery's Care for Living Christmas Trees

Preparation:

Keep the tree well-watered before bringing it in the house.

Placement:

Situate your tree where it is at least 10 feet from a wood-stove or fireplace. Do not set it where heat from your furnace duct will blow directly on it and avoid placing it in a sunny window.

How Long:

Living Christmas trees can be safely kept indoors up to seven days. It is important not to exceed this time limit without affecting the survivability of your tree.

Ornaments:

Feel free to dress your living tree with your favorite decorations. Lights should be the small, miniature type.

Do not use spray snow that adheres to the branches.

Remove the tree promptly:

After Christmas, set the tree in an unheated garage, carport, covered deck, or other shady protected location for at least a week to allow it to readjust to cold weather. Hose it off and keep it watered during this period. Be sure to remove the plastic wrap on saucer to allow for drainage.

Planting:

Dig the hole at least twice as wide and twice as deep as the depth of the container. Refill the bottom of the hole with a mixture of one part mulch and two parts soil. Very carefully remove the tree from the pot and gently lower it into the hole. Set the top of the root ball even with the surrounding grade and build a good basin to hold water.

Plant Fair Nursery's How to Keep Cut Trees Fresh

Make a fresh cut:

This opens up the tree's vascular system and allows the tree to continue to pull moisture up into its foliage.

Put it in water with preservative:

Immediately (within 1/2 an hour) after you make a fresh cut, you will want to put the tree outside in a bucket of water that has preservative added to it. Keep it in a cool protected area to reduce moisture evaporation.

Clean the stand:

Mix a cupful of bleach with one cup of water and clean your stand's reservoir. This will reduce any micro-organisms that can block the tree's ability to absorb water.

Keep it moist:

After putting the tree in the stand, it is essential you keep water in the stand. To keep the tree fresher longer, be sure to add preservative to the water each time. Never let the tree go dry.

Keep it cool:

It is best to use cool burning lights on your tree. Turn off the lights when leaving the house or retiring for the night. It is very important to keep your tree away from heat sources such as heater vents, fireplaces, wood or pellet stoves, fireplace inserts, television sets, and sunny windows. Turn down the room heat at night.

Remove the tree promptly:

Remove the tree before it dries out.

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