Tips on picking your Christmas tree

December 02, 2008|By BOB KESSLER

It's time to buy a Christmas tree. But what kind should you buy? Artificial, fresh cut or live? And what variety? This depends on the length of time you wish to keep the tree inside.

If you're looking at keeping a tree inside more than three weeks, you should consider an artificial tree. If your tree will be up less than three weeks, a fresh-cut tree is certainly an option. If you keep a tree up for 10 days or less, you might consider a living tree, according to Mary Ann Ryan, Adams County (Pa.) Master Gardener coordinator.

If you're planning on decorating a fresh or living tree for Christmas, there are many varieties of trees you can choose. Ryan says Christmas trees can be broken down into three basic groupings: firs, spruce and pines.

The following list is commonly grown Christmas trees, but not a complete list of varieties.


o The Frasier fir is native to the high elevations of the southern Appalachian Mountains. It has easily adapted to our climate, if you're considering a living tree. It has excellent needle retention with wonderful fragrance, dark green foliage with silver on the underside of the needles, and twigs which are relatively stiff for an easy-to-decorate tree.

o The Douglas fir is a very popular Christmas tree. It's native to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and has adapted well to our weather conditions. It has a natural pyramid shape with somewhat drooping branches. The needles are a medium-green color, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long and fragrant. This tree has good needle retention and is relatively easy to decorate.

o The Balsam fir is a long-lasting, fragrant fir with dark green foliage. It's native to the northeastern United States and Canada. It likes cold, winter temperatures and cool, summer temperatures. It is one of the most common Christmas trees in the United States. It has good needle retention and strong twigs for an easy-to-decorate tree. This tree resembles the Frasier fir in looks and endurance.

o The Concolor fir has longer needles than other common fir trees, as long as 1 1/2 inches in length. It has a good fragrance and needle retention. The blue-green foliage is an attractive color for a Christmas tree. The concolor is native to the West Coast, but has adapted to our environment well.

o The Colorado blue spruce is a nicely shaped tree with a silvery-blue color. The needles are sharp and very stiff, making it rather prickly to decorate. But it does have good needle retention if kept watered. These trees are symmetrical by nature and have strong limbs for heavy ornaments.

o The white spruce has short, stiff needles with a blunt tip, making them less prickly than the blue spruce. The branches are stiff as well, making it a good choice for heavy ornaments. Needle retention is good, probably better than other spruces. However, when the needles are crushed, they have an unpleasant odor.

o The Norway spruce has a dark green color but poor needle retention. It is conical by nature and open in appearance if not trimmed heavily. It has stiff branches, making it easy to decorate. If choosing this variety, be sure to keep it well watered in a cool room and do not keep it in the house for more than two weeks.

o Scotch pine is a common Christmas tree. It was imported from Europe by early European settlers. It has long, stiff needles, about 1 to 3 inches in length. The needles are in clusters and are a medium green color. It has fairly good needle retention when it is kept watered. It also is a very easy tree to transplant if you are considering a living tree.

o White pine is a native evergreen. It has long, clustered needles and good needle retention. It is very soft to the touch and has flexible branches, so it cannot handle heavy ornaments. It has little fragrance but has a nice, blue-green color.

When selecting a variety of tree, keep in mind where the tree will be displayed. If it is in a cooler room, your choices are greater because the needles will hold longer. If it is a warm room, where conditions will dry out the needles more quickly, it's best to choose a variety with good needle retention.

Don't let the bedbug bite

The old saying, "Goodnight, and don't let the bedbugs bite," once meant little to us because we had all but eliminated bedbugs from the United States. Recently, however, they have started to make a comeback.

Bedbugs are very small, brownish, flattened insects that feed only on blood. They are not known to transmit diseases. They are active at night when the lights are out and people tend to lie still. They like to hide close to their food source, so that is why these areas need to be inspected if bedbugs are suspected.

When they bite, they pierce the skin and feed for three to 10 minutes. Some people will react to a bite with redness and itching, while others might not react at all. Insect repellants do not work against bedbugs.

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