Some people like to buy their Christmas trees this weekend, at the beginning of December, around Advent Sunday, which this year is December 2nd. Those of you who are not fond of Christmas, Winter Solstice and Yule celebrations may wonder why having a needle –dropping plant in the house for four weeks could be seen as a good thing. So what could be done to reduce the needle dropping issue?
Firstly, if you are after a real not artificial tree, and needle dropping is an issue; look for a Nordman fir (Abies nordmanniana). This gorgeous pyramid shaped tree has luxuriant dark green needles which are less prone to dropping even when you forget to water it. However, the Nordman takes up a fair bit of room, being wide at the bottom. The Norway spruce (Picea abies) is slimmer and has that lovely resinous, “piney” aroma but does have a tendency to drop needles as soon as you look at it.
The majority of people who buy a real tree buy a cut tree rather than a rooted one, ie one still with its roots which continues to grow; so we’ll look at cut trees. Let’s say you’re after a six foot cut tree. If you from a reputable source, then it will be a farmed resource, by which I mean that it was grown specifically to be cut for Christmas. The tree will have been grown from seed for up to eight years in the open before being cut for the Christmas tree market. It will have been fed, watered and probably pruned to get that good traditional shape; lovingly nurtured, even. From a ‘green’ perspective, it will have been soaking up a lot of carbon dioxide in that time, so this should balance some of the carbon outlay in transporting it from the field to your home.
Your Christmas tree is a not so much a tree as a bunch of lilies from the florist -in so far as a cut tree is like a cut flower and needs similar treatment. Those needles are the tree’s leaves, which have been adapted over thousands of years to suit the habitat that pine and fir trees –conifers – grow in. Our Christmas tree is an evergreen, meaning it always has leaves and so has high water demands throughout the year. The narrow, resinous leaves have a reduced area for water loss through evaporation. But like the leaves in a bunch of cut flowers, the pine needles will wilt and die if they’re not given enough water and that’s up to us to provide, having cut off the trees roots.
When you get the tree home, take it into the garden; slice a section off the bottom of the trunk, just like you would cut the dried stem end from a bunch of flowers, this helps the tree to take up water. Remove the net the tree was wrapped in and give it a shake; the branches will start to return to their original lushness fairly quickly. Then put your Christmas tree in a bucket of water so it can have a good long drink to freshen up.
Keeping the tree outside or in a cool conservatory for as long as you can will help reduce the needle dropping and overall lifespan. Remember it will need water. When you’re ready to bring your tree indoors, try not to place it near a radiator or fire; display it in a stand that has a water reservoir, being sure to keep this topped up. Just like a vase of flowers. Decorate and enjoy.
For more tales of Christmas trees and mistletoe, planting ideas for your winter garden, and a gallery of photographs and original sketches, why not add our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” to your Christmas present purchases? Available from Amazon and Smashwords in formats to suit PC, iPad and Kindle.