Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Selecting the Best Holiday Tree

Selecting the Best Holiday Tree


As a landscape architect and arborist, I may be pickier than most about what kind of tree to get for the holidays. I love the woodsy fragrance of Balsam and Fraser Fir and because I live in a sunny, warm and dry NYC apartment, I also want good needle retention (trees tend to dry out so fast in an apartment). Selecting a tree is fun if you know what you are looking for. Here are some pointers to make sure you bring home a fresh tree: 
  1. Be sure you know what size (height and width) you need before heading to the lot. Measure the ceiling height in the room where the tree will be displayed. The trees in the field look small when the sky is the ceiling. Don't overbuy (unless you are Clark Griswold!). Measure the width of the area of the room where the tree will be displayed. Most trees on tree farms are trimmed to an 80% taper. So a tree that's 10' tall will be 8' wide at the bottom. A tree that will fit in the room vertically may be entirely too big horizontally.
  2. Run a branch through your enclosed hand - the needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches - they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.
  3. Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration: Indicators might include: excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor, needle pliability, and wrinkled bark. A good rule-of-thumb is, when in doubt about the freshness of a tree, select another one. If none of the trees on the lot look fresh, go to another lot.
Give a gift that keeps on giving for a lifetime with this Memory Gift Tree

The following evergreen trees are commonly grown in the United States for Christmas Trees and are thought of as the best for different characteristics.


Fir Trees: Common name (Botanical name)

Balsam Fir branchin
Balsam Fir – (Abies balsamea) – Native to the northeastern United States, the Balsam Fir is named for the balsam or resin found in blisters on bark. The needles are flat, ¾” to 1 ½” long rounded at the tip and generally last long on the branches. The color is dark green with silvery cast. Balsam Firs have good form and are fragrant - often the fragrance will hold for several weeks. Balsam fir branches are good for medium to light weight ornaments. Factoid: Balsam fir oil is an EPA approved nontoxic rodent repellent.


Fraser Fir
Fraser Fir – (Abies fraseri): The combination of form, needle retention, dark blue-green color, pleasant scent and strong branches has led to Fraser fir being a most popular Christmas tree species. Fraser Fir has dark green, flattened needles with a medial groove on the upper side and two broad silvery-white bands on the lower surface and are ½ to 1 inch long. When crushed, the needles have a very pleasant woodsy scent. The more upright branching and clean form allows for medium weight ornaments. Factoid:  Named for the Scotish botanist, John Fraser, who explored the southern Appalachians in the late 1700’s.





Needles of White Fir

White Fir or Concolor Fir – (Abies concolor): Commonly found in the western/northwestern US, the White Fir has blue-green needles are ½ to ½ inches long. They have a nice shape, good citrus-like aroma and good needle retention. White Fir is named for its light-colored bark and the silvery or "glaucous" color of its needles. This is a narrow conical conifer with a straight trunk, spire-like crown and branching to the base. Upper branches tend to grow upward, but the lower branches tend to recline. Factoid: In nature the White Fir can live to 350 years.



Douglas Fir branches
Douglas Fir – (Pseudotsuga menziesii):Although not actually a fir, the Douglas Fir is one of the most popular trees for Christmas Trees. They are softer with  1” to 1 ½” flat needles and have one of the best aromas among Christmas trees when crushed. Douglas fir has a good conical shape (and often are sheared on the farm to maintain the "perfect" shape).  Named after David Douglas who studied the tree in the 1800’s;  can live for a thousand years. It is also the state tree of Oregon.




Pine Trees - Common name (Botanical name):

White Pine
White Pine – (Pinus strobus):
This pine has soft, blue-green needles, 2 to 5 inches long in bundles of five and retains needles throughout the holiday season with a very full appearance. White pine has little or no fragrance so has less allergic reactions as compared to more fragrant trees - this is a good choice for families prone to allergies or sensitivities to fragrances. As the largest pine in Eastern United States it is also the state tree of Michigan and Maine. It's slender branches will support fewer and smaller decorations as compared to Scotch pine. It’s wood is used in cabinets, interior finish and carving. Native Americans used the inner bark as food. Early colonists used the inner bark to make cough medicine. Caveat: Branching can be too dense for large ornaments. Needles can be too slippery and soft for heavy ornaments but it's soft appearance takes on an elegant appearance simply with just white lights.


Scotch Pine branches
Scotch Pine – (Pinus sylvestris): Another common Christmas tree, the Scotch Pine is native to Europe and Asia and is predominant in Scotland. It is readily identified by its combination of fairly short, blue-green leaves and orange-red bark.  It has stiff branches, stiff, dark green needles in pairs one inch long and holds needles for four weeks - needles will stay on even when dry which makes it very popular for indoor Christmas trees. It has open appearance and more room for ornaments and also keeps aroma throughout the season. The Scotch Pine was introduced into United States by European settlers. Factoid: Pinus sylvestris is the only pine native to northern England and is the National Tree of Scotland.


Spruce Trees - Common name (Botanical name):

White Spruce branches
White Spruce – (Picea glauca): Leaves (needles) are needle-shaped, and are often somewhat crowded on the upper half of the branchlets. Needles are usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, blunt at the tip and green to bluish-green in color.  Crushed needles have an unpleasant odor but have good needle retention. As a Christmas tree, white spruce has excellent foliage color, short stiff needles and a good natural shape. Needle retention is better than some of other spruce species.  Factoid: State tree of South Dakota.  



Blue Spruce branches
Blue Spruce – (Picea pungens): Color is dark green to powdery blue with very stiff needles, ¾” to 1 ½” long. The needles are 4-sided and have a very sharp point on the end. It is this point which gives the species its name "pungens", from the Latin word for sharp as in puncture wound. Needles are generally dull bluish-gray to silvery blue and emit a resinous odor when crushed; good form; will drop needles in a warm room; symmetrical; but is best among species for needle retention; branches are stiff and will support many heavy decorations. Factoid: State tree of Utah & Colorado. Can live in nature 600-800 years.

What kind of tree will you (or have you) picked? Let us know in the comments!

Don't forget these essentials for your tree:

      

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments here