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This year, consider a real Christmas tree

November 21, 2009|By SANDY SCOTT / Special to The Herald-Mail

Nothing ushers in the holiday season like the fragrance of a real, fresh-cut Christmas tree.

Real Christmas trees are biodegradable, which means they will break down and become part of the soil again. They are renewable. For every tree harvested, two or three seedlings are planted.

Those of us living in Washington County and the surrounding area are lucky to have many Christmas tree farms near us. These farms stabilize soil, protect water supplies, and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts. Christmas tree farmers are a varied group of people. They are teachers, doctors, truck drivers and homeowners. Some grow acres of trees, others grow just a few.

If you use artificial trees, why not try a live or fresh-cut tree this holiday?

Christmas trees come in all sizes, shapes, colors and varieties.

The most commonly available trees are: balsam and Fraser firs; Scotch and white pine; Douglas-fir; and white Norway and blue spruces.

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Our local tree farmers often grow white (or concolor) and Canaan fir, which grow better in Washington County than other firs.

White pine is a Maryland native. Both white and Scotch pines are fast-growing trees that are fragrant, have excellent needle retention, and are less expensive than the slower growing spruces and firs. But watch out for Scotch pine needles - they are very sharp and stiff.

Firs grow densely and have softer needles and branches. They are especially fragrant and have good needle retention. Some may not support heavy ornaments at the tips of their branches.

Spruces have a more open growth habit than firs and, like pines, have stout branches to support ornaments. Most spruces have average fragrance and good needle retention. White spruce is not very fragrant and Norway spruce does not retain its needles well.

You may choose a fresh-cut tree from a tree lot or farm, cut your own tree from a local farm, or buy a bagged live tree to plant in your yard after the holiday season is over.

You might want to recycle your tree in your own backyard or garden. Discarded Christmas trees provide welcome shelter for chickadees, nuthatches and other small birds. Redecorate the trees with treats for the birds, but please remove the tinsel.

A real Christmas tree is a local 100 percent biodegradable and renewable American product. Go green for Christmas this year.

Purchase a real tree and plant or recycle it when the holiday is over.

Sandy Scott is a member of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board, which promotes forest conservation in Washington County. For more information, go to www.wcfb.sailorsite.net.

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