Christmas Trees

Charlie Metz
Frederick County Master Gardener Program

In the next few weeks we will scout a local tree farm for our Christmas tree. Every tree is differed. As a gardener I have a preferences for plants that grow as much in their natural stat as possible. This is not the case with Christmas trees.

Someone in the past decided the perfect Christmas tree should have a perfect cone shape.

I have searched the woods all my life, and I still haven't found a perfectly shaped tree in nature. Christmas tree growers work hard throughout the year to prune trees to fit the image of the perfect tree. Unfortunately, many trees get passed over.

Having relatives in the choose-and-cut Christmas tree business, I have observed certain buying characteristics over the years. Everyone has his or her own idea of what the perfect tree should look like. Sometimes opposing ideas are in the same family. This results in conflict. Perhaps I can put some light on this subject and maybe smooth over some conflicts over some-thing that is supposed to be a happy occasion.

My mother-in-law grew up through the Depression and tells me how they used to scout local }tads to bring home a cedar tree to decorate for the holidays. If you know what a cedar tree looks like, it would not fit your image of a beautiful tree. But when it is decorated, it looks just as pretty as any other.

This is the key to my feelings on this subject. It is the decorating that is the real fun of the tree. It is the decorating that puts ornaments in "holes" in the tree that allow for individuality. It is the decorating that gives your tree real character. And it is the tree that is the symbol of the holiday, not its shape.

I frequently hear people say they donít want to cut their own tree because itís a living thing. You have to realize a professional, usually on a farm that is not suitable for any other crop, crop, grew the tree. In its natural state, that farm would not have any desirable trees. While trees grow, they purify the air, stabilize the soil and give wildlife a home.

Christmas tree growers spend lots of time shaping trees to con- , form to this artificial expectation. They are just like other farmers except the crop needs to be in the ground from five to eight years to bring it to the size to fit most living rooms. Each year, growers plant, fertilize, mow and watch for pests and diseases. Some years are disastrous if an untimely drought or disease sets in. That is why we pay what we do to get trees.

This brings me back to the tree that isn't perfect. Being around the tree farm each year, I see many trees not chosen for various reasons. They may have a hole in the middle or they may be too fat, too skinny, too short, not the right color or even grow too close to the checkout. These trees probably saw the same amount of attention as the others, but for some reason were overlooked.

That is why I am amazed to see people go out in the field for hours, only to return empty handed. The fun of cutting your own tree is the trip to the farm, being outdoors, enjoying your surroundings. Almost any tree chosen can be decorated beautifully. It can be your perfect tree.

Trees passed over on a choose-and-cut farm can get a second chance next year and possibly one more. Trees passed over on a lot just get tossed out, never able to fulfill their purpose. It is such a waste to pro-duce a tree that never gets to grace a home at holiday time.

So when you are picking out your tree this holiday season, try to look at your prospective tree with an open mind. After all, we expect other people to treat us with an open mind. Isn't that what the holiday is all about?

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