Sunday, December 23, 2012

DIY almanac: bring home a living Christmas tree for replanting later

A Living Balsam Fir, all wrapped up in burlap and ready to be planted after Christmas. Photo credit: Christmas Is Alive
I love Christmas trees: their needles' woodsy, fresh scent and the calming, magic they can bring to a room. This year for our tree  I decided I wanted to bring home a tree that was still alive, with the hopes of replanting it instead of chopping down a tree. After all, evergreen trees produce oxygen for us all year round since they retain their foliage. A small, potted Yvonne Port Orford Cedar called my name at our local hardware store: lemony-green with a sweet cedar aroma and good cold tolerance with the potential of growing up to 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide. I figured a unique cedar variety would also be a good choice because we could plant it amongst the rest of the cedars at our new property. Living trees work best when they are on the smaller side, up to 4 feet tall or so. This makes them great for smaller dwellings as well: tiny homes or studio apartments.
Since our older house already has some colder rooms, I didn't bother with acclimating our tree slowly to the indoors. If you keep your house rather warm, you'll want to give your living tree a chance to adjust to the change in temperature gradually (about 3-4 days), so that you don't shock your tree out of dormancy. This can be achieved by leaving your tree in an outdoor garden shed, up against the house on the porch or in the garage. You'll also only want to have your tree indoors for up to two weeks (10 days is ideal), again, so you don't bring your tree out of dormancy. Basically, if your tree awakens from dormancy, it will have a hard time readjusting to the cold of the outdoors when you're ready to plant your tree. Your tree also might drop many of its needles if it goes into shock.
I chose to place our potted tree in an antique wash basin, up away from Banjo, our one-year-old shepherd mix who would definitely be tempted to chew on the tree's branches and ornaments. Having our tree up in a wash basin meant I could water the tree without water dripping as well. I also covered the top of the tree's black pot with Christmas linens, save for the back, leaving some soil exposed for easy watering. I've seen living Christmas tree pots set up in apple bushel baskets or wrapped in festive fabric. Some living trees arrive with their rootball wrapped in burlap (as pictured above) instead of potted up. These trees can be kept in a galvanized tub full of water and weighted with stones.
I strung one string of mini green LED lights amongst the little tree's boughs and decorated the cedar with German paper star ornaments made by my Great Aunt, glass owls from my mom, and the corn husk angel I made last Christmas. Every other day I give the tree a pour of water from a mason jar I have sitting on a shelf nearby. I've read that keeping a spray bottle on hand for misting will keep living trees from losing their needles.
Anyway, on December 26th, I'll be busy taking these decorations down to prepare my little tree to return to the outdoors. Here, I will probably try to acclimate my tree to the outdoors by keeping it in our shed for a few days. Then, I'll be able to plant our tree over at the new property, where it will awaken in the spring, ready to keep growing.
Our litte tree, all set up.
Our tree is decorated with German paper stars, glass owls and mini green LED lights.
Our little tree at night.

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