Saturday, November 25, 2006

Season Kicks Off

We’ve heard from several farms around the country who have reported sales started off brisk this weekend. I suspect that next weekend, many more people will start to get into the Christmas mood with a massive cold front coming through most of the country.

You may have heard about the Trees for Troops program. It kicks off the domestic routes next week and we’ll be posting many updates about that. If you do a search for a place to buy a Christmas Tree, you may notice a small icon next to some of the farms/lots. The icon indicates they have donated trees to the program. If you buy a tree from one of those farms with an icon, make sure and say thanks to them. The public can support the program by contributing to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation .

Early this week, there was a problem with the zip code search function of the web site not returning results for zip codes in the East that begin with zero. This has been fixed and is now working properly. If you notice any problems with the web site as you’re looking for a place to buy a tree, please email

From: Linda
Sent: Friday, November 24, 2006
Subject: evergreen

I was wondering if you could answer a question...I was traveling on I-94 toward Detroit from Chicago and drove past a tree farm, I believe near Jackson, MI, where I noticed a most unusal shade of blue evergreen growing. Can you tell me what that tree is called?

Answer: Could be several different species that can have foliage with a blue tint. But in that area, most likely was a Blue Spruce.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another Option?

From: Ryan McDaniel
Sent: Sunday, November 19, 2006
Subject: third xmas tree option?

Everyone knows about the two options available for xmas trees--real or fake. But what about this one: get a variety of pine that only grows to the average height of a cut xmas tree (about 8 feet?), and just bring it in every year. Or if there is no xmas-looking tree that only grows to this height, you may be able to keep it the right height by pruning its roots like a bonsai tree, which would make it easier to bring inside too. And then the amount of oxygen produced by the trees would be greater than the amount that you talk about on your website because the trees would be alive and photosynthesizing all year long. And there would be no need to recycle them. Do you think this is possible? Is there a variety of tree that would work?

Answer: hmmm...OK. Interesting idea. Actually one of the more interesting emails we've received in a while. The first thing I would say is that many people in fact enjoy buying a Christmas Tree with the roots still intact and then plant it in their yard after Christmas. These are often sold as Ball and Burlap or potted trees. This is a great option if you have a big yard that needs trees and can follow some specific guidelines .

Next, I would say that none of the conifers used as Christmas Trees are going to stop growing at 8 feet, and even if they did, digging them up multiple years in a row would probably kill it. I suppose you could keep shearing off the leader each year to keep it at 8 feet tall, but the tree would respond by growing VERY wide.

And, at the risk of sounding lecture-ish (which is not my intent), the point about trees grown on farms producing oxygen is made mostly because the trees on farms wouldn't be there if they weren't planted by farmers for the purpose of being harvested. There are an estimated 500 million trees on 21,000 acres of tree farms growing and producing oxygen. Young, small, fast-growing trees produce a lot of oxygen while "trapping" carbon in the plant tissue. I'm not sure you could convince homeowners to plant that many trees to replace those grown by farmers.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Reader Q&A

Thanksgiving is next week... a blog entry was due.

Got a great e-mail note forwarded from a farm in New Hampshire. The note came from a customer who had just ordered a farm-grown tree.

From: Terry Kaiser
To: Nigel Manley
Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2006
Subject: Re: Tree order

Thank you! I bought my first artificial tree last year and can't stand it!!

Answer: Yeah, well, I can see how that would happen. Now unfortunately, that belatedly wise person is left with a non-biodegradable mass of metal and plastic. What’s he going to do with it? Leave it in storage? Toss it in the trash? Either way, it’s a shame. He should have stuck with a Real Tree all along.

Did anyone see the article in the USA Today this week about some of the trends in fake trees? One trend is prices going ever higher. Somehow the fake trees are becoming more realistic with some new kind of plastic mold process and cost about $500! Good grief, I can think of many things I’d rather spend $500 on.

The other trend is fake trees made with black plastic. A black Christmas tree....seriously. How existential. Sometimes I just don’t understand people’s desire to be different for the sake of being different.

From: Mike
Sent: Friday, November 17, 2006
Subject: Tree Stand

I would like to purchase a 12' unflocked tree. I know I need a stand with a water reservoir. I would like to know if you can recommend a manufacturer that is known to produce a safe stand that does not usually allow a tree of that size to tip over. Pretty much what I'm asking is who makes the best large tree stand?

Answer: Hard to say one is "the best"...there are many good ones out there.

I would look at the Cinco stand, which makes several sizes including a large size for trees that big.

If the retailer you purchase from has a drill machine, you can also get a pin style stand such as the Yule Stand.

Grip tight stands are very stable, but can only hold a trunk 5.5" inch diameter...depending on the species you get, some species will have a thicker trunk at 12 foot tall.

Krinner Stands make an XXL size too

Sheerlund Products makes a stand called Monster Super Stand

With any of these manufacturers, you'd have to call/email them to find out if they have a retailer near you or if they'd sell direct.

Whichever you choose, my advice would be to NOT sacrifice water capacity for stability. You don't have to do that. Another tip to add stability is use some heavy fishing line (like 20 lb clear monofilament which is nearly invisible) tied to the tree and something stable near the tree (end table, sofa, hanging plant hook, etc).

Next week - a TV news piece actually showing how a watered tree does NOT catch on fire. Plus, Trees for Troops is about to kick off.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Reader Q&A

From: Martha
Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Subject: Which Tree?

Which kind of tree would smell the best? I haven't had a real tree in years and I've missed it.

Answer: Glad to know you'll be going back to a traditional, farm-grown Christmas Tree Martha. It's impossible to tell you which tree smells the best. Smell is a very subjective sense...what smells "good" to me may not to other people, and so on. I can't even tell you that one species of tree smells stronger, for certain, because again, everyone smells things differently. There are some general consensus characteristics, such as Leyland Cypress has very little aroma, Douglas-fir has a citrus smell, White Pine has light aroma unless sap oozes out, most of the fir species are typically described as strong aroma. You can read more about general characteristics of common species on this page

From: Bob and Mary Ellen
Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

We plan to cut a scraggley spruce or balsam tree from our woods to use for outdoor decorating and shelter for the birds at the feeders. Can this tree be cut now, though it is unseasonably warm at this moment here in northern Wisconsin? We would the tree to stay green through the winter.
Answer: hard to would have a much better chance if you put the butt in a bucket of water and filled it through the season. Otherwise, how quickly it will dry out will depend on many things such as relative humidity, how much direct sunlight is on it each day, how much wind it is exposed to, how much snow and ice falls on it, etc.

Response from Mary Ellen: I am very impressed with your prompt reply and plan to do what you suggest (even though the consequence of putting one's butt into a bucket of water during northern Wisconsin winter would no doubt be to find one's butt in a bucket of ice before much time passes--sorry, I simply couldn't resist that comment :)

Thanks so much for taking your time to reply to our email. We will try our best to do as you suggest to keep the tree green as long as possible.

Answer: LOL...yeah, well, I guess I could have explained that a little better. The other tip I can suggest is to put the tree in a garage or someplace a little warmer than just outside once placed in a bucket of water. The warmer temp will stimulate water absorption, give it a few days then move it outside.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Narrow Trees for Condos

Many people are beginning to think about their tree and decorating needs now that we are into November and chillier weather (at least it’s chilly here in St. Louis).

We got a great question from Travis this week about finding a narrow tree that fits in an urban condo. I face the same problem, as I live in a rennovated, 140 year old row house in St. Louis. The whole space of my place is only 14.5 feet wide, so I HAVE to get a narrow tree too. Here’s

Travis’ question and my advice:

From: Travis
Sent: Friday, November 03, 2006
Subject: suggestions???

We live in Chicago, in a great, but tight condo. We entertain alot, so we can't afford to lose a lot of floorspace for a tree. Do you have any suggestions on what type of tree we should get? We would like something very fragrant, tall (about 9 ft), but very slender. Pls advise.

Answer: That's a great question Travis. I'm in a similar situation and I'm sure many others are as well. Here's the main tidbit to know in order to get the best-sized tree for your situation. Taper is the term used to describe the general shape the tree is sheared. It's a measure of the proportion between a tree's height and width (at the widest point, usually the bottom whorl of branches). In general, trees are typically sheared to a 80 degree taper. This means, if a tree is 10 foot tall, it will be 8 foot wide at the bottom. Or, if it is sheared to a 50 degree taper, then a 10 foot tall tree will be only 5 feet wide.

Now, just about any species of tree can be sheared to different tapers, plus fullness of branches, space between whorls, leader height, etc. So it's not so much a matter of asking for a particular species, but asking the farm or retail lot person for a tree with a smaller taper. If you want a 9 foot tree, you should ask for one with a 50 or 60 degree taper, which will be pretty narrow. Level of "fragrant-ness" is completely subjective, so I can't tell you one species will smell "stronger" than another. However, I can tell you that most fir species sheared to that narrow of a taper will be more open, meaning space between will be able to "look through it". If you get a pine or spruce species, there will be more "fullness" to the appearance of the tree. Now, this is a general guideline, because like most things in nature, there are variations.

If you are going to a farm to cut a tree yourself, I do suggest calling ahead (and call during business hours on a week day if possible so the farmer him/herself is available). Tell them what you are looking for so you know if they have any trees like that available. Happy Hunting!

Note: For all you scrapbookers out there....
The National Scrapbooking Association will be hosting Harvesting Memories Charity Crops on Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11. The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation is the designated charity for the events and will receive donations. Crops are being held in Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Pasadena (CA) and Concord (NH).

Keep the questions coming!