Best of
 Wild Things…
 O' Christmas Tree
By Karen Vizzi
   The tradition of the Christmas tree dates back to pre-historic times. Through the years, evergreens were used in many ceremonies and rituals to symbolize life, and trimmings of candles and shiny ornaments brought light during the darkest and bleakest days of the year.
   In the old days, going to the woods to cut the tree was part of the family ritual. These days, there are very strict regulations about cutting down trees, so most people purchase cut trees from markets. Most live Christmas trees sold in the United States today are grown on farms, and the farming is often done on land that is unsuitable for growing other crops. So the resource is renewable and little harm is done to the environment. However, many people have come to prefer artificial trees because they can be put up earlier and taken down later. 

   When selecting a live Christmas tree for the home, a number of factors need to be considered. Obviously, size and shape is important, but so is durability. Typically, firs last the longest; pines are the next most durable and spruces, the least. In any case, here are a few tips for keeping your tree as fresh as possible:

·  Select the freshest tree available and test it by gently bending a few of the outer needles. If they are dry and brittle, choose another tree. It is quite natural for the older growth (inner needles) to shed, so don’t mistake this as a sign that the tree is not fresh.

· When you get the tree home, make a fresh diagonal cut about one inch from the base. A diagonal cut exposes a larger area for water absorption than a flat cut. Immediately stand the tree upright in a container of fresh water.

· Rather than shock the tree by bringing it immediately into the warm house, allow it to rest and acclimate for a day or two in the garage or an unheated porch.

· When selecting its final spot, remember to keep it away from heating ducts, radiators, fireplaces, etc. 

· Monitor the tree carefully and never let it dry out. Even one day without sufficient fresh water may cause the tree to dry rapidly and become a fire hazard.

    Finally, when it comes time to dispose of the tree at season’s end, don’t just put it to the curb! The boughs can be pruned off and spread over the crowns of tender perennials for winter protection. Or an even better idea is to just prop up the whole tree in the wild garden, making an excellent windbreak and shelter for birds and other critters. I even do a “second” decorating by adorning it with pinecones that have been spread with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed. What’s left of the tree in spring can be chipped and used as mulch.

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