By Master Gardener Susan Kowalchuk
One off my favorite Christmas holiday traditions is going to a Christmas tree farm and choosing a tree. In addition to the beauty of having a fresh aromatic tree in our home, these trips to the farms have provided our family with many holiday memories. The month of December can get pretty frenetic. The trip to select a tree is a respite, and depending on what farm you go to, a mini outdoor family adventure, which ends with a sense of accomplishment and hopefully a large cup of hot chocolate.
According to the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Association, there are over 1,200 Christmas tree farms, producing at least 1.2 million cut trees a year on 35,000 acres. There are many different types of evergreen trees to choose from. The following is a list of trees most commonly found on Pennsylvania Christmas tree farms:
Balsam Fir – this was the first plantation grown tree in the Northeast. It is a fragrant tree with short needles with a blueish/silver cast. It has good needle retention, making a great choice for those who like to put their tree up in November. A variety of the balsam is the canaan.
Douglas Fir - soft, delicate blue/green needles with flexible branches. It has good needle retention.
Concolor Fir – long soft neeedles that have a silver/blue hue. Branches have a delicate/airy appearance. This evergreen gives off a citrusy scent and has good needle retention. It is also known as a white fir.
Fraser Fir - short, dark green stiff needles. The tree has a pyramidal shape, with branches growing upward, giving it a more formal/traditional appearance.
Colorado Blue Spruce – this tree has a distinctive appearance, with short three sided dark green/blue needles and stiff branches. Its strong branches make it a good choice if you have heavy ornaments.
Eastern White Pine- has large, soft, blue/green needles. Tree has a good fragrance, excellent needle retention, and an airy, more informal appearance.
Norway Spruce – is dark green with a conical shape. Needles are 4 sided and point forward. The branches are strong and hang down in a pendulous fashion. Compared to other evergreens, needle retention is poor. Nonetheless, the Norway Spruce is often chosen for the White House and Rockefeller Center.
The type of experiences available at Christmas tree farms can vary; hayrides, cut and haul your own, pick a tree and have them cut and haul it to the car for you, acres devoted to several types of trees in the country, smaller farms in less rural areas, shops that have ornaments, wreaths, food, the list goes on and on. Decide what you would like for your family tradition and call ahead to see what types of trees and experiences the farm offers.
Once your bring your tree home, it is recommended that you cut no more than one inch from the trunk and place it in a stand that holds at least a gallon of plain water. You shouldn’t place your tree next to a heat source and use only indoor lights on the tree. Don’t forget to turn off the lights before leaving home or going to sleep!
Support Your Farmer:
http://www.pickyourownchristmastree.org/PAxmastrees.php - link to Christmas Tree Farms, hayrides, tree lots and other related activities in your area
www.christmastrees.org - Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association – another resource for farms within driving distance of your home. It also offers information on other types of evergreens.
http://www.realchristmastrees.org - National Christmas Tree Growers Association