As the holidays approach I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at evergreen trees. Please understand that all evergreen trees are not pine trees. What are you looking for in a tree for the holidays? The size should be appropriate to the setting in which the tree will be displayed. The tree should be able to hold on to its needles. It should have a pleasant fragrance and over-all shape and its branches should be sturdy. Perhaps most importantly the tree should appeal to you. All of these specifications are not going to be the same for everyone. Let's try to help you with your final decision.
Needle-retaining ability depends on the type of tree, when it was cut, the humidity of the room where it is displayed, and the availability of water. Firs (trees with flat needles with rounded tips growing directly on the stem or with a very tiny stem) especially concolor, Douglas, and Frazier, keep their needles for a long time. Pine trees (that is trees with sheathed needles attached in clusters of two to five) generally keep their needles the longest time. I think that firs smell the best but I also love the smell of white pines
White pines are easy to recognize as the needles are attached in clusters of five (the same as the number of letters in the word “white”.) I also love spruce trees for a small room as they have a narrow growth habit. Their branches are whorled. Spruce needles are each attached by a small peg. Blue spruce has strong branches for ornaments. If the fragrance of a tree is a health issue the spruce may be the tree for you.
I am sure some of you are thinking “I am really surprised at Carol Ann's enthusiasm for cut trees. What is she thinking?” Well, trees sold in New York State are grown as a crop just like your purchased tomatoes. These trees are grown on tree plantations. Since the trees take a number of years to grow to a salable size they provide habitat for birds. Tree plantations also conserve soil and contribute to the oxygen content of the atmosphere in the process of photosynthesis. The cutting of these trees are not ruining forests. They are maintained with an eye on their ultimate size and shape.
When you are finished with your tree you can choose environmentally sound ways to use it. Use cut boughs on perennial plants to deter their heaving and to reduce their drying out from winter winds. Cut trees can also be sent to composting facilities in some Western New York communities. This way they directly reenter the cycle of life in the process of decomposition. You can't say any of this about an artificial tree.... it resides in landfills for many many years.