I cannot bring myself to purchase an artificial tree. Artificial trees are cleaner in the home ( no mess, no need to water); some come with lights already inbedded in the branches; some almost look real.

I hate them! No romance, no natural fragrance, another foreign made product, and they last forever in land fills when discarded. Fresh trees bought for Christmas are not cut from forests... they are a crop grown on tree farms much like the potatoes and lettuce you purchase. They are natural, beautiful, grown in the States, support people, are useful even after you take them down, can be returned to the earth and thus recycled. Since the trees take a number of years to grow to a saleable 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. These trees are not ruining forests. They are maintained with an eye on their ultimate size and shape.

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. Letís take a look at each one to help with your final decision.

Although it is true that a cut treeís trunk must be cut again when it is displayed, this shouldnít be the time for you to be changing the actual shape of the tree. You may wish to prune the top of the tree so you are able to place a decorative ornament on the top. You may need to cut away lower branches that sag, but that is about it. If itís not pretty at the site of purchase the tree will look even worse when you get it home. (Oh I could tell you stories about our family tree-cutting experiences....)

Needle-retaining ability depends on the type of tree, when it was cut, the humidity of the room where it is to be 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 Frasier, keep their needles for a long time. Pine trees (that is trees with 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

When you are finished with your tree you can choose environmentally sound ways to use it. Use cut boughs on perennial beds to deter the heaving of plants and to prevent your plants from drying out in winter winds. Cut trees can also be sent to composting facilities in some areas of Western New York. This way they directly reenter the cycle of life in the process of decomposition.

I love hearing from you.

Forever Young Magazine December 2013