Christmas trees and me go way back. My parents love to tell the story of my first Christmas, when I was eight months old and already walking. After I pulled the Christmas tree down, my parents stuck it in the playpen and let me run free. Back in those days, we always had a real tree. My husband and I bought our first fake tree the year we got married. It came in about a thousand pieces and by the time we figured out how it went together, it was practically Easter. (Like my first tree, that one came down rather precipitously when our cat dove for a sparkly ornament.)


When we lived in England, the ground wasn’t frozen hard as it usually was in Chicago. We bought balled-and-burlapped spruces for our Christmas trees there—dug the holes in December and planted the trees in January. Back in the U.S. when our kids were small, we had real trees a few times. I had fond memories of balsam firs and liked to have those, until a friend who was a fireman scared us back to artificial trees with his horror stories of trees catching fire.


I mentioned to my friend Michelle Buonfiglio, who writes for B&N’s Romance blog, Heart to Heart, that I was blogging about Christmas trees. She said at her house they would put pennies and ice cubes in the Christmas tree water. I’d never heard of this, but when I checked online, I found some recipes for homemade preservatives to mix with the tree water. These mixtures included sugar or corn syrup, and the copper in pennies reacts with the sugar solution to form an acidifer to help the tree absorb water, as well as acting as a fungicide and disinfectant. Go, Michelle—your family tradition still has merit!


Despite the fire risk, there is still a big demand for real trees. You don’t have to worry about depleting forests by purchasing a cut tree—Christmas trees are grown as an agricultural crop, and for every tree cut down another three or more are planted. After the holidays, many communities collect the trees and use them for mulch. If you live in a moderate climate and like the idea of using a balled-and-burlapped tree as I used to do, store the tree outside in a sheltered, unheated spot until just before Christmas, keeping the soil consistently moist. A b&b tree shouldn’t be indoors more than three days, and if you string it with lights, make sure they don’t generate heat. After Christmas, don’t put it straight outside. Move it from the house to a garage or sheltered porch before planting, to acclimatize it gradually.


My next post will be all about cut trees, since there are several things to consider, but in the meantime, here are some books that express why Christmas trees have become such an important part of the holiday. I'd love to hear about your Christmas tree traditions: Do you insist on a real tree or are you fond of retro aluminum trees? Do you have any funny tree mishaps? Do tell!






The First Christmas Tree 











Nell Hill's O Christmas Tree 












The Legend of the Christmas Tree 










The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree 









Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect 












Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree 









The Valley of the Christmas Trees 






Becke Davis is the senior writer for The Landscape Contractor magazine, a member of Garden Writers of America and the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association. She has written well over 1,000 published articles and is the author of five garden-related books in addition to being the moderator of B&N's Garden and Mystery book clubs.



by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎12-02-2009 08:11 PM

Hey, becke. Thanks first for not laughing when I told you about that, and next for now making it seem like it was a smart thing to do!  Of course, kids, pennies, water and those old-fashioned, wonky electric light cords probably probably weren't a wise combo, now that I think on it. 


The info re the potted trees is interesting; I feel guilty re trees, because I thought it was really unhealthy for the environment. Do you happen to know which trees do best indoors? Or is that for  your next post?


And in terms of nostalgia, I used to like that white flock stuff that people sprayed on trees, and have fond memories of artificial Christmas-tree scent applied to faux branches.  but there's really nothing like a silver aluminum tree done up in blue, is there?

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎12-02-2009 08:41 PM

I used to hate the aluminum trees when I was a kid, but now I think they're kind of cool. I've never had a big one, but I do have this cool silver holographic tabletop tree -- at least, until my son snatches it for his apartment.  I do remember that spray snow -- I wonder how toxic and bad for the atmosphere that stuff was? I just remember it was hard to clean up. When we had real trees, I remember the ornaments getting all sticky from sap with certain trees. 


And, yes, watch for the next post for more about bringing cut trees indoors.

by Choisya on ‎12-03-2009 03:50 AM

Great selection of books Becke!  I remember Christmas trees catching fire at my grandmother's house on more than one occasion, caused mainly by the use of small candles which were clipped onto the branches, so I am rather wary of having them indoors.  Instead I have a small pine tree in a container which I bring onto my patio each year.  I decorate this and several other shrubs with good silver tinsel and multi-faceted mirror baubles. These catch the light from my dining room and save me the trouble of putting up electric lights.  I have also purchased some solar Xmas lights which I have put around the arch which leads into my garden and which I will leave in situ.  Together with little parcels of chocolate Santas and Snowmen wrapped in silver tinfoil, these outdoor decorations make a Christmas grotto for my grandchildren to explore when they come around on Boxing Day.   


My indoor decorations consist of three fibre optic trees of varying sizes which I put in my hall, dining room and lounge. I like the way in which these slowly change colour and the fact that they are a 'quick fix'.

by Choisya on ‎12-03-2009 03:55 AM

PS:  I found this nice little story about the use of candles on Christmas trees.   (How do you edit blog posts??) 

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎12-03-2009 11:02 AM

Choisya - Thanks for that link. It terrifies me to think of people putting lit candles on a dry tree, but that used to be popular years ago, so your grandmother was doing what a lot of others did. I'm sure it looked beautiful, but good grief! I wonder how many houses burned down because of that tradition.


My neighbors all have pretty lights up but I just have a wreath on the door and some holiday banners. I love the lights but they are a lot of work and we are usually out of town for the holidays. One of my favorite fake trees (I have a couple) is one that is on a plain wood base. It looks like a real tree trunk and it only has a few branches - very Charlie Brown's Christmas. It's kind of arty-crafty looking so I have a collection of hand-made ornaments for it. 


Aaah, I should do a whole separate post on Boxing Day, except there's not really a garden tie-in. That's one tradition I wish more people celebrated in America. Relaxing on the day after Christmas and visiting with relatives is one of my favorite parts of the holiday!



by Moderator becke_davis on ‎12-03-2009 11:02 AM

And I don't think there is a way to edit comments at the moment.

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