Frasers, Cedars, Dougs, and Nobles...
Sounds like a bunch of guys at the Harvard Club. It’s pretty close, because these trees are the crème de la crème of the beautiful evergreens that give their life for our Christmas celebrations every year. Fresh, and dripping with dew, they make their way from the hills of North Carolina and the mountains of the Pacific Northwest to us in the form of wreaths, trees, garlands and kissing balls. It’s time to recycle out the old Indian corn for the squirrels, have a good time smashing the pumpkins and gourds for the birds and next spring’s garden seed. Yet another season is upon us, and it’s time to hang the beautiful greens of Christmas.
Many of these trees are lovingly grown on family farms and plantations, where for every tree that is cut, another dozen have been planted. The business of putting together the boughs of evergreens is a family collaboration—wiring foot after foot of fresh cut greenery into long-lasting garlands, swags and wreaths.
Balsam is the most fragrant of firs. Wired into mostly wreaths, this outstanding fir scents up a house like nothing else. Loose, and fluffy, balsam needles tend to fall a little—but all the better when you vacuum them up. The scent of balsam fir needles will last in your vacuum for months, freshening up the house and reminding you of your lovely Christmas season.
Douglas Fir, surprisingly enough, is considered its own species. Not a true fir, pine or spruce, the Doug fir is plentiful and produces more softwood per acre in Oregon than any other state in the country. Its soft needles completely encircle its branches, making it perfect for cutting boughs and holiday trees. The uniqueness of its cones makes the Doug Fir readily recognizable—little split bracts protruding out of each scale gave rise to a Native American Indian legend. It is said that each bract signifies a mouse tail and legs from the time when they hid in the cones during forest fires. A nice tidbit to remember when hanging pine cones on the tree with the kids.
Fraser Fir is the cream of the crop when it comes to Christmas trees. Very similar to Balsam, it was once thought they were one tree, until the Fraser and Balsam took hold in different parts of the country. The Fraser is grown in the Southern Appalachian Mountains at elevations of above 4500 feet where the summers are not humid. Its stiff, needle-retaining character has made it the most popular and coveted Christmas tree. You can just hear the fiddles and banjos singing through the mountains while stroking the branches of this stunning tree.
Western Red Cedar from the great mountains of the Pacific Northwest, has a flat appearance with a light green shade and small berries. It maintain it’s shape and freshness for quite a while, making it invaluable for roping and bunches. The Noble Fir, another great western fir, has a beauty all its own in the blue tinge of its needles. Portly, fat, and full of substance, a Noble wreath is outstanding on the front door.
Boxwoods are not in the fir family, but are evergreen shrubs known for their architectural beauty when planted in colonial and modern gardens. As a tree, they are conical and magnificent when shaped. They are perfect planted in urns and pots. Wreaths and roping made out of the common American Boxwood give an elegant Greek classical look to the front door or entrance way.
Taking care of your greens and trees are easy. In the plant yard, we give you the first cut on your tree. When you bring it home, dunk it in a bucket of water until ready for the house. At that point, you can give it a second cut, so water is sucked up readily to keep it fresh and keep it from drying out. Checking the tree often is a good idea, for it likes to drink a lot. Adding a product to the tree water such as “Prolong” will help the moisture get where it needs to go— in the tree “veins”.
The same goes with greens. Instead of a cut, you can mist your wreaths and roping every other day. The needles and leaves will appreciate a little drink on the foliage. The heat inside the home is drying, so keep the spray bottle handy.
I always hate seeing the family Christmas tree dumped out in the street like garbage on December 26. After New Years, I put the tree-- stand and all -- outside. In the past, the kids decorated it for another Christmas go-round with cranberries and popcorn for the birds. It’s also good protection for the critters during those beautiful snowstorms we get. As far as they know, the darn tree fell from the sky to protect them!
Cutting the branches off the tree and laying them around rosebushes and tender trees such as fig and other fruit trees forms an airy mulch that can protect from hard freezes. Azaleas, Rhododendrons, and other acid loving plants will benefit as well from the acidy mulch of disintegrating wreaths and branches. When starting a fire, nothing makes better kindling in the fireplace than dried fir branches and pine cones. Stripping the needles off wreaths and trees for use in fragrant potpourri and sachet sacks is a good project as well. In the end, the greenery just keeps on giving.
Remember the 12 days of Christmas, and keep the tree and wreaths around for a while outside before relegating them to the useless trash. The magic might just continue for just a little bit longer after the presents are unwrapped, and the relatives go home. Peace and Goodwill to all—even the garden.
Garden Center Post
By Patricia Dumas