Thursday, December 4, 2008


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Are you thinking of getting a fresh Christmas tree this year? It seems that there are tree lots on every street corner: The big boxes, the corner store, nurseries, garden centers; everywhere. So how on earth do we choose one? Here are a few simple steps that will ensure you get the freshest tree and keep it that way. When buying a fresh tree, check that the needles bend rather than break with gentle pressure; shake it carefully to look for needle loss; and check the cut end: it should be sticky with sap. If these conditions exist, buy your tree and take it home. First, make a new cut at the end of the trunk about an inch above the old one. Keep the cut end standing in water, whether you decorate the tree immediately or not. This allows a fresh route for water to travel into the trunk. Check the tree's water level frequently, and refill as necessary. Fresh evergreen trees can take up an amazing amount of water. If the water level drops below the trunk, a seal will form, preventing the tree from absorbing water. Keep your tree away from heat sources such as a heating duct or television set. A fresh tree that receives good care should remain in safe condition indoors for ten days to two weeks.

After the holidays, there are several options for your tree other than the landfill. Recycle your tree or mulch it in the garden. Most municipalities in the Denver area have recycling available. Contact your own city or county. Never burn your Christmas tree in the fireplace (the pitch content in the bark and needles can cause them to burst into flames from the intense heat).

Or do something whimsical: right after Christmas, move the tree outside and decorate it with popcorn, fresh cranberries, peanuts in the shell, pine cones with suet and birdseed; apples, rice cakes, dried corn bundles. Use natural string, ribbon and raffia for hanging. The birds will use this material for nesting in the spring, after the food is gone. In the spring, trim off the branches, mulch those in the garden and use the frame of the tree to create a bottle tree. Place colored bottles of all kinds on the stub ends of your tree. Put in a location to glisten in the sun and enjoy! Tradition says that bottle trees protect the home from evil spirits by trapping spirits inside the bottles, where they do no harm. With a little imagination, dear gardener, your tree can provide enjoyment all year: the traditional tree at Christmas; a home for birds to gather and feed, garden mulch and finally a wonderful piece of folk art created by your family.