Living Christmas Memories

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant Paperwhite narcissus in pots this weekend for holiday gifts.
    • Don’t overwater your houseplants in the winter. Empty saucers after watering.
    • Spring bulbs can still be planted now. They make lovely gifts for friends and relatives.
    • Wild bird feeders will attract migrating birds so you can enjoy the pleasure of their company.

Living Christmas Trees

If you celebrate Christmas, you’ll undoubtedly have some form of decorated tree. If you buy a living potted evergreen tree this year, rather than a cut or artificial one, you can plant it outdoors after the holidays. This way you can enjoy it for years to come.

Some of the biggest advantages of using living Christmas trees are the lessening of fire hazard, their future use in the landscape and the fact that they may often be used for more than one year as a living Christmas tree in the home.

These trees offer year-round beauty when planted in the landscape and can be decorated outdoors for many years to come. They also become a yearly source for cut greens to make wreaths and other decorations for the holiday season.

Colorado Blue Spruce are the most popular living Christmas tree. It has very stiff, horizontal branches that easily hold up the ornaments. Foliage varies in seedling trees from dark green through all shades of blue green to steel blue. It makes a fine landscape tree in our area, with branches that grow all the way to the ground.

True fir trees also are beautiful, perfectly shaped trees. The Grand fir has lustrous dark green needles borne that are very fragrant. It grows in a perfectly pyramidal shape and is native to North America.

Douglas fir trees are well known, especially for their fragrant foliage. They are native to this region and are quite fast-growing, so they can only stay in the container for a year or two. Other trees that can be used as Christmas trees include pines, Deodar cedars, Coast redwoods and giant sequoias.

When you bring your tree home, keep your tree outside in a shady spot out of direct wind, or inside an unheated garage. The trick to keeping it alive is not to break its dormancy with too much heat, and to avoid extreme temperature changes. Water every two to three days, but don’t allow the root container to sit in water as roots will rot.

          Indoors, choose a spot away from wood stoves, fireplaces, heating vents, and drafts.  A cool room is best, perhaps 65 to 68 degrees in the day, less at night.

When you bring your living tree into the house, leave it there for no more than two weeks. Water it slowly and thoroughly by dumping two trays of ice cubes onto its soil surface every day.

Decorate your tree with small, cool bulbs — flashing bulbs are best of all. Don’t use tinsel as it’s too hard to get off. You can use strings of popcorn or madrone berries which the birds will enjoy when you move the tree back outdoors.

With care and planning, your Christmas tree will serve as a living memory for many years.

Spruce Trees

Friday, December 9th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Holiday Amaryllis are easy to bring into bloom and they make lovely gifts.
    • Fragrant daphne is an early-blooming shrub that will delight you with its strongly scented blooms each spring. Plant it in well-drained soil.
    • Primroses and pansies will add color to your flower beds and containers all winter.
    • Feed the birds this winter and enjoy the pleasure of their company. Bird feeders come in many styles and make wonderful gifts.
    • Dogwood trees, flowering magnolias (or tulip trees), and Japanese maples are some of the balled and burlapped items you will find available now.

Spruce Up for Christmas

The holiday season is here and, for many of us, it’s time to choose a Christmas tree to be the center of light and warmth throughout the season. A living Christmas tree adds a special feeling to the Christmas season, and watching it grow throughout the year will bring you lots of pleasure.

Spruce trees are the most popular living Christmas trees. They are slow-growing and will live for several years in a container before they need to be planted in the ground.

Colorado spruce, Picea pungens, are the most popular. These sturdy, symmetrical evergreen trees are usually grown from seed, so they vary in color from green to blue green. Only a few turn out to be a steely blue. These are called Colorado Blue Spruce and command a higher price than their green brothers.

Allow plenty of room for this tree to spread out. Plant it at least 15 feet from a building, fences or walkways. It should never be controlled by pruning. Colorado spruce can be used in lawns, as an accent plant in large spaces or as a background tree with contrasting foliage color. They will grow in any type of soil but need good drainage.

A number of varieties are now propagated that have pronounced silver-blue needles. ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ is a slow-growing dwarf tree reaching 15 feet tall by 10 feet wide at maturity. It has light blue needles and a dense growth habit. ‘Fastigiata’ is unique in the spruce world. It has a tight, columnar shape, and intense blue color and grows to 20 feet tall by only 6 feet wide.

Dwarf Alberta spruce, Picea glauca ‘Conica’, is a compact, pyramidal tree growing six to ten feet tall at maturity. It has short, fine needles that are soft to touch, and bright green foliage that is attractive year-round. It is a good container plant and can be used as a Christmas tree for many years.

Alberta spruces are very hardy to cold but need protection from hot drying winds and from strong reflected sunlight, which will burn the foliage.

True Cedar trees are silvery blue in color. Deodar Cedars are soft and pendulous when young, and grow to be large graceful landscape trees. Atlas Cedars are more stiff with very blue needles. They are pyramidal in youth but more broad and picturesque when mature. Horstmann Blue Atlas Cedar is a semi-dwarf tree with densely-spaced icy-blue needles and an irregular outline. It is slow-growing and compact reaching 8 feet in 10 years.

A living Christmas tree should be placed in a well-lighted room for not more than two weeks. Water it regularly using ice cubes or cold water. Place it away from heater vents and never let it dry out. Miniature lights may be used.

Start a living tree tradition this year that you can enjoy for years to come.