O Christmas tree

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Doc, an old friend of mine in Columbia, Mo., would buy a balled and burlapped (B&B) Scotch pine each year at Christmastime, bring it into the house for a week or two, decorate it with lights and ornaments, and use it as his Christmas tree. After Christmas he would then take the tree outside and plant it in his landscape. I could go up to a tree and he would tell me what year it was planted and then give me a brief rundown of his family's history for that year.

Over the past few years, I have talked to a lot of people who follow Doc's tradition. I have always wondered why they go to the effort and expense to use a B&B evergreen for their Christmas tree each year. The answers are as varied as the people who practice the tradition.

One gardener friend always wants a real tree. If you know any dyed-in-the-wool gardeners, you know that they can't cut down a tree. They must move it and keep it alive no matter what. Therefore, a freshly cut tree is out of the question. A B&B tree is just the ticket.

Several friends have large areas to landscape. They are also frugal. A B&B evergreen provides them with a beautiful Christmas tree and a new addition to their landscape with only one purchase instead of two.

Several Christian friends prefer to use a B&B Christmas tree. They feel a living Christmas tree is a better symbol than a cut tree for the eternal Christ child.

If you are interested in having a B&B Christmas tree in your home there are some things that you need to be aware of. Go to your local garden center and look for a B&B evergreen that grows well in the region. I prefer to use white pine, Norway spruce, hemlock or blue spruce. The spruces have twigs stouter than either the hemlock or white pine. Therefore, spruce twigs can hold up heavier ornaments and lights.

When you select a tree, make sure that it has a good solid ball. Of course you want a tree that is well shaped and has dense foliage. When handling the tree always handle the tree by the ball. Handle it as few times as possible. Every time you handle the tree, there is the possibility that you can loosen the ball.

Dig hole in December

After purchase, take the tree home and place the ball in a large pot or washtub. Then fill the tub with mulch. The mulch will keep the tree standing straight and will also reduce moisture loss from evaporation. Water the tree as soon as possible. Check daily to see that the root ball stays moist.

When placing the tree in your house, keep it away from fireplaces, stoves and heat vents. Keep the room the tree is in as cool as possible. Go ahead and decorate your tree with ornaments and lights. Enjoy your tree through the holiday season until you are ready to take the tree outside and plant it.

The length of time you can keep the B&B Christmas tree in your home is probably debatable. I used to recommend only keeping your tree in the house for a week or less. On the other hand, I know of several gardeners who keep their tree in the house for a month or more during the holiday season. Since we live in an area that usually has mild fall weather, I think you can keep your tree inside for a longer period of time.

When you take your tree outside to plant it, use the procedures that we have written about over the course of the last few years. If you don't know the proper way to plant a tree, then go to your local garden center and ask them for directions.

Let me give you a small hint. Quite often the weather in early December, when you buy a tree, is mild. On the other hand, the weather in January, when you want to plant your tree, if often raw and very cold. In fact, soils may be frozen in January. Therefore I suggest that you dig the hole for your Christmas tree in early December and cover up the excavated soil. If the weather does turn bad, you will still be able to plant your tree right after the Christmas season.

Each Christmas past usually has cherished memories. If you decorate the B&B Christmas trees, you can recall memories as you stroll through your landscape.

Send your gardening questions to Paul Schnare via e-mail at news@semissourian.com or write him at P.O. Box 699; Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: