Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Tree Talk: The perfect Christmas tree

One of the most iconic images of the holiday season, Christmas trees started as a German tradition and were introduced in the U.S. by German settlers. Live Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the U.S. since about 1850. Most of these trees are grown on more than 15,000 Christmas tree farms, covering 350 million acres across all 50 states. Oregon, North Carolina and Michigan are the top growers. North Dakota has growers, too – with options to cut your own Christmas tree on tree farms near Towner, Cavalier and Bismarck.

The average price of a live-cut Christmas tree this year is about $50 to $75, depending on size and species. Prices have risen due to increased cost of fertilizer, labor, fuel and shipping. We are still feeling the effects of the 2008 recession, when fewer trees were planted. As a result, some areas could see a supply shortage of trees.

The most popular Christmas trees are:

Scotch pine – pleasant fragrance, excellent needle retention and branches stiff enough to hold heavy ornaments. Eastern white pine has soft, long needles, but retention is not as good as Scotch pine and the branches are very flexible – not the best for holding heavy ornaments.

Fraser fir – very pleasant fragrance, best needle retention, with bright green flat needles that are white on the underside. Branches not quite as stiff as Scotch pine. Balsam fir has similar qualities but needles do not last quite as long.

Spruce – this is the most commonly grown Christmas tree in North Dakota, including both Colorado blue spruce and Black Hills (white) spruce. Branches are stiff and will support heavy ornaments, but needles are quick to fall – this tree will likely last only a couple of weeks, so keep it outside till you are ready to set it up.

Right before placing a live tree inside, cut off the bottom inch of the trunk to open the pores that transport water through the tree. Place the tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least two to four quarts of water. A tree will use one quart of water per day for every inch trunk diameter at the base. Fill the stand and always keep water in it, so the tree's pores remain active and needles can remain on the tree throughout the holidays. Home remedies such as aspirin, sugar, soft drinks and vodka do not increase the life of the tree and might even be harmful to pets that may drink from the stand. Place the tree away from a heat source (radiators, heat vents and fireplaces) and use miniature lights that produce low heat to reduce drying of the tree. LED lights are energy efficient, long-lasting and emit little heat.

Some prefer a live tree for its pleasant fragrance, the experience of picking out the tree and the option to recycle the tree after Christmas for a winter bird feeder or mulch. According to the American Christmas Tree Association, 94 million or 75 percent of US households celebrated Christmas by displaying a tree in their homes in 2021. Of those trees, 84 percent were artificial and 16 percent were live. The first artificial trees were also of German origin, made using goose feathers dyed green and attached to wire branches. In the 1930s, green brush bristles were used, and the 1960s brought us shiny aluminum trees! A great compromise is to purchase a nice quality artificial tree for convenience and overall cost savings, and deck the halls with live boughs for a woodsy aroma.

There really is no such thing as a bad Christmas tree. The best tree is the one that fits a family's traditions, preferences and budget. Without a tree, Christmas just isn't Christmas.

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