PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE ASSOCIATION
The Fraser fir branch has needles that are flattened, dark-green with a medial groove on the upper side and two broad silvery-white bands on the lower surface. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the combination of form, needle retention, dark blue-green color, pleasant scent and excellent shipping characteristics has led to Fraser fir being a very popular Christmas tree species.
A little preparation will help ensure your Christmas tree will last through the holidays
November 27, 2008


BY Barbara Sparkman
Victoria County Master Gardener


Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTO BY BARBARA SPARKMAN/Victoria County Master Gardener
This large Sparkman family Fraser fir remained fresh throughout the season last year with its appropriate fit for its location, adequate watering and use of miniature lights that produced less heat and drying effect on its needles.
The sounds of Christmas – lively carols, jingling bells, ho ho ho, and oh that annoying sound of dead needles falling off the tree and hitting the yet unopened packages! Careful planning and a little preparation will help your tree be fresh long after the gifts have been unwrapped and plans for New Year’s Eve are underway.

SELECT BEST TREE FOR YOU

Selecting the best kind of tree and finding out how your nursery or tree lot cares for your tree before you buy it is where planning comes in.  A short survey of nursery professionals in Victoria concluded that a Fraser fir and a Noble fir are the most popular with their customers.  It was their experience that both types of trees have good needle retention and are fragrant and easy to decorate.
 

CHECK TREE CARE BEFORE PURCHASE


The nurseries that were questioned about their trees all seemed to take good care of their trees after they are delivered to their businesses. All had multiple deliveries of trees so you can be assured your tree hasn’t been on the lot for the whole season. The trees are kept in the shade and are watered down to keep them moist. John Fossati of Four Seasons Garden Center gets several deliveries of his Fraser firs from a family-owned tree farm in North Carolina where three generations of the Cartner family supply beautiful trees to many parts of the country. Four Seasons goes a little further by fresh cutting the butts of the trees after delivery and putting them immediately in stands with adequate watering twice a day.
 
Renken’s Nursery and other Christmas tree outlet centers including H.E.B. Texas Backyard and Lowe’s will fresh cut the base of your tree and bag it for transportation to your home.  Once your tree is at your home it is very important that your tree immediately gets adequate water.  If your tree hasn’t had a fresh cut on the butt end of the tree, it is something you must do before placing your tree in the stand and adding water.  After your tree was harvested and during the transportation and time on the lot, the butt of the tree has sealed itself off and cannot intake the water that will keep it fresh for the Christmas season.  To cut the end, make a fresh cut to remove a 1/4 to 1” thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk.  Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis.  Don’t cut it at an angle or “v” shaped.
 
TEST FOR FRESHNESS AND FIT

Other considerations when selecting your tree include testing your tree to see if your tree is indeed fresh.  A fresh tree will have a healthy green appearance with few browning needles.  Needles should be flexible and not fall off if you run a branch through your hand.  Remember also to choose a tree that fits where it is to be displayed.  It is a good idea to measure the area you intend to put the tree so you don’t end up with a tree that is too large.  Remember to place your tree away from drying heat vents and fireplaces.

WATER ADEQUATELY

Once your tree has been placed in its stand and in place in your home, it is important that you begin adequate watering of your tree.  The tree will take up a large quantity of water at first, as much as a gallon a day, but the amount will decrease after a while.   A rule of thumb is one quart of water for every inch of diameter of the trunk. Once the tree is in the container never let the tree dry out.   Needle loss from trees with interrupted water supply is much greater than trees with continuous watering.  If your tree has gone dry and the base has sealed off with resin it is not possible for the tree to absorb water.  If this should happen to you, John Fossati suggests scraping the bark near the base of the tree with a screwdriver to allow more water to be absorbed.  Research has showed that plain water is all you need to keep your tree fresh.

FUNNEL WATERING

Although it is sometimes difficult to continue this watering regime after the tree is decorated and the tree skirt and gifts are hiding the base, it can be done with some advanced preparation. Someone came up with the ingenious idea of placing a funnel with a 3 to 4 foot length of vinyl tubing attached in an out-of-the-way place on the tree.  Extend the tubing down the tree trunk and into the tree stand reservoir.  Water the tree through the funnel instead of crawling under the tree and getting water all over your packages.

CAREFUL USE OF LIGHTS

Be sure and check all of your lights before decorating the tree to make sure there are no worn electrical cords.  Using miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the needles.  Also, be sure and turn off the lights at night and when you are not at home.

ALL SAID AND DONE - RECYCLE

When the holiday festivities are all said and done, your tree will hopefully still be fresh and beautiful if you have followed these tips.  Remember to take your undecorated tree to the curb side for recycling.  We are lucky in Victoria to have curb side pickup for our trees.  The trees are chipped up and used for mulch in many areas around the city.
 
Not only have you enjoyed your fresh green beautiful tree, but the Christmas tree mulch is a gift that keeps on giving in a green ecological way.
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE ASSOCIATION
The needles of the Noble fir tree are roughly 4-sided, bluish-green in color but appearing silver from the underside, and generally twisted upward so that the lower surface of branches are exposed. An excellent Christmas tree because of its beauty, stiff branches and long durability, the Noble fir is growing in popularity according to the National Christmas Tree Association. It is also widely used in the greenery business to make wreaths, door swags, garland and other Christmas products.
PHOTO BY JOE JANAK, Victoria County Extension Agent
Known as "Santa's Magic Water Spout", this funnel watering system from
Smokey Holler Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, NC, is to be put within the decorated tree in an inconspicuous place and strapped to a limb with the velcro strap.  The funnel at the top is used to fill the tree's container with water at the base, adding water as needed.  The clear tubing "dipstick" is to be pulled out while holding your finger on the top, allowing the water level to be gauged without having to crawl under your tree and peer into the container.
Watering Tips for Your Thirsty Tree

• Pick a fresh tree that has been well cared for at the tree lot – lots of shade and water.

• Run your hand along the branches to see if many needles fall off – if it doesn’t feel fresh it won’t last through Christmas.

• Have the nursery personnel clean cut the end of the tree.  This will allow for water absorption when placed in the stand with water.

• VERY IMPORTANT – Place in water immediately when returning home– either in a bucket or tree stand with a large water reservoir.

• Check twice a day – do not let the tree go dry or the tree will seal off again with resin.

• A tree can take up to a gallon of water right away – eventually it will slow down.

• Plain water is all you need to keep your tree fresh.