Well, one month from today is the Big Day -- Christmas Day! Really hard to believe -- anyway I thought I would give you some ideas about Christmas trees. In our area, there are several types that are popular, balsam fir, blue spruce and Scotch pine.

The balsam fir is known for its wonderful fragrance. Its short, soft needles and strong, layered branches make them great trees for large ornaments. If needle retention is important, choose a fir because it holds onto its needles the longest. I give this tree four Stars for fragrance and three stars for durability.

The blue spruce is known for its full, natural shape and soft fragrance. Their sharp stiff needles and thick branches also make them good at supporting heavy ornaments. Blue spruces hold their needles better than other spruce species, but all will drop needles in a warm room. I give this tree a three star rating for fragrance and two stars rating for durability.

Finally, Scotch pine boast strong branches and needles that can be prickly, but adept at holding large ornaments. Pines are virile, holding their needles for four weeks, even after the needles are dry. However, they emit little fragrance, so they are not the best choice, if filling a home with the smell of a fresh tree is important.

We are very fortunate to have many wonderful Christmas tree farms located right here in our area. Probably one of the best times we had as a family was going to get our fresh cut Christmas tree. We always preferred to ride in the wagon and let the professionals cut the tree, but on many tree farms you can cut your own if you prefer.

It is suggested that if you decide to cut a tree yourself, then cut it as close to the ground as possible. Leave the lower branches intact until you get home. Then remove the branches and either discard them or save them for a mantel decoration, wreath or other holiday craft. You also need to make a fresh cut on the base of the tree when you do get it home. This helps the tree to absorb water, which of course is very important for your tree.

Once your tree is indoors, be sure and check the water level in the tree stand every day. Many trees “drink” about a gallon of water during the first day or two indoors. The tree should continue to take up a quart or more of water each day during the first week in the home, and then it tapers off after that. Also, the amount of water taken up by a tree depends on the size of the tree and how cool the home is kept.

Well, hopefully this has helped those of you considering a fresh cut Christmas tree this year. I will follow up next week on caring for your Christmas tree. Learn more at the University of Illinois Extension’s website, “Christmas Trees and More”, http://extension.illinois.edu/trees/

If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a Master Gardener volunteer at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ . And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.

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