Christmas tree

Proper selection and care of your Christmas tree will keep it fresh and looking its best throughout the holidays.

The hunt for the perfect tree is oftentimes an important part of family tradition. Buy local whenever possible by supporting local Christmas tree growers. Purchasing locally grown trees also reduces the risk of spreading unwanted pests into your landscape. Your local University Extension Service and Department of Natural Resources provide updates on any threats.

Family tradition may dictate your tree choice. Many prefer the fragrance of balsam fir and needle retention of other firs like Fraser, white, Grand, and Noble. Though not a true fir, Douglas fir needles have a wonderful aroma when crushed. White pine lacks the fragrance that many prefer. Its pliable branches only support lightweight ornaments, but the soft needles have less bite than the popular Scots or Scotch pine. This evergreen has stiff branches that support heavier ornaments and its needles hold even when dry.

Check for freshness. A fresh tree will last throughout the holidays. Run your hand along the stem. The needles should be pliable yet firmly attached to the branch. Avoid trees with lots of moss, lichens, vines, broken branches, and other signs of poor care.

Look at the overall shape and size of the tree. Stand the tree upright to make sure it will fit in the allotted space. Check the trunk. It should be straight and the base small enough to fit in your tree stand.

Make a fresh cut, removing at least an inch from the base of the trunk before setting it in the stand. Straight or diagonal cuts work equally well. A diagonal or V-shaped cut may make it difficult to properly support the tree in the stand.

Proper watering is key. Fill the stand with water and check it often. Fresh trees can absorb as much as 2 quarts of water in the first 24 hours. Keeping your tree stand filled with water is the best way to keep your tree looking its best throughout the season.

Once your tree is in place, you can add lights and decorations. Then take time throughout the busy holiday season to relax with your favorite winter beverage and enjoy the beauty of your Christmas tree.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including the recently released Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” instant video and DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and her website is MelindaMyers.com.

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