Thanksgiving is a day to enjoy family and friends, but for a number of people the day after Thanksgiving is a day that they look forward to. This is the unofficial day for Christmas shopping.
Another tradition for a lot of families the day after Thanksgiving is putting up the Christmas tree. When I was growing up, our next-door neighbors' tradition was to put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, and they took it down on New Year's Day.
Some years, they would use an artificial tree, but most years they would use a cut tree. When you leave a cut tree up this long, the hardest thing to do is to keep the tree fresh.
You can find a wide selection of trees growing on cut-your-own lots or in retail lots. Christmas trees can be identified by the size, color and arrangement of their needles. The four common types are pine, fir, spruce and cedar/cypress.
- Pine trees have needles arranged in bundles of two to five, and these bundles are held together by a sheath at the base of the needles.
The most common pine used at Christmas is the Virginia pine. This tree is grown throughout Georgia for cut-your-own growers. The Virginia pine has yellow-green needles that are 11/2-inches long. These needles are slightly twisted and are arranged in bundles of two needles. The majority of the Virginia pines will be dyed a dark green color.
The second most common pine sold is the white pine. The white pine has blue-green needles 3- to 5-inches long and arranged in bundles of five. These pines hold their needles well, but wilt noticeably.
The last pine is the Scotch pine with needles 1- to 11/2-inches long. The needles are arranged in bundles of two. Its bark is orange-red bark.
- Cedar/cypress are grown in our area. The most common is the Leyland Cypress. This tree has fine, fern-like foliage. They hold up well and show very little wilting. You can find this tree at most cut-your-own tree farms. A number of people will use the Leyland cypress as a live Christmas tree and plant it in their yard after the holidays.
You can use other cedars as Christmas trees. Our native Eastern red cedar has been used for years as Christmas trees.
- Firs have needles arranged in rows, with one on each side of a branch. The needles are flat and the cones are upright on the branch.
Retail lots most often have the Fraser fir. These are grown in the mountains of North Carolina. The Fraser fir has needles that are 1/2- to 1-inch long and are dark green. The other common fir is the Balsam fir. These are grown in the Northeastern United States and Canada.
Once you choose a tree, how do you take care of it once it is in your home?
With a cut tree, the care begins before you get it inside. The first thing to do is check for freshness. Run your hand down the limb. If the needles are fresh, they will spring back as you move across them. If the tree is dry, the needles will fall off.
After you get the tree home, remove at least an inch off the bottom of the trunk. This will open the vessels in the tree that take up water. As soon as you cut off the end, place the tree in the stand and give it plenty of water.
The first few days, check the tree often for water. If the water level drops below the tree trunk, the transport vessels will seal over and the tree will not take up water. You would have to cut the tree again to reopen these vessels.
Is there anything that you need to add to the water to help keep the tree fresh? I have heard about aspirin, soft drinks, vinegar, chlorine and vitamins. Research has shown that these products do nothing to help the tree stay fresh.
Also, keep the tree away from fireplaces and heat ducts. The heat will dry the tree out. Make sure that the lights on the tree are working and are UL approved.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com. The extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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