In the garden

Selecting a live Christmas tree
One of the favorite family traditions of the holidays is selecting a live Christmas tree and putting it up at home.

“To me, it’s the fragrance,” said Henrico Extension Agent Lisa Sanderson. “When you put a live tree in your home, it just smells like the holidays.”

Live Christmas trees can be purchased from a number of different sources including nurseries and garden centers and by mail-order, but the most popular are retail lots and choose-and-cut farms.

Retail lots, often operated as fund-raisers for charitable groups, offer convenience for time-strapped shoppers. When choosing your tree, check for freshness. Look for a healthy, green appearance and needles that are flexible and don’t come off in your hand when you gently stroke a branch.

The most popular species of Christmas trees in Virginia are the eastern white pine, Fraser fir, Scotch pine, and Norway spruce. A study conducted at Cornell University rated the Fraser fir as the best of these four species for needle retention and fragrance and equal to or better than the others for “resistance to ignition.”

“When you get your tree home, you need to cut an inch off the bottom,” said Sanderson. “Cutting the bottom helps ensure your tree will take in the water it needs to stay fresh in your home.”

Your Christmas tree can absorb as much as a gallon of water the first day you have it up, so placing it in an adequately-sized stand with a sufficient reservoir for water is important. You’ll also need to keep it away from heaters and fireplaces.

“If the tree dries out, you need to take it down and cut the bottom off again,” said Sanderson. “It may be a little inconvenient, but you have to check the water every day, maybe even twice a day.”

Sanderson says a good rule of thumb is to treat a green Christmas tree like a fresh bouquet of cut flowers.

Living, balled-and-burlapped Christmas trees are another popular choice especially since the late-December or early-January climate in Virginia is often conducive to planting. These trees need to be conditioned in an unheated garage or shed for a couple of days before being brought into a heated home. They also need water, but not as much as cut trees, and they shouldn’t be kept inside more than ten days.

A choose-and-cut farm can provide a fun outdoor recreational experience for your family as well as a beautiful Christmas tree. Some farmers provide hand saws for you to cut your tree while others will cut the tree for you. To find a choose-and-cut farm, go to http://www.virginiagrown.com.

“I’ve gone with my family to cut a Christmas tree,” said Sanderson. “I have to tell you, it was wonderful!”
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The Fairfield Ruritan Club will host a barbecue chicken dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Antioch School Community Center, 5650 Elko Rd. in Sandston. The dinner includes… Full text

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