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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


The Good Seed: Fragrant Fir Trees And Perfect Pines

Lynn Coulter
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When it comes to Christmas, I’m a romantic. In my part of the country, snow is rare, especially on Christmas Day. The trees in my yard are almost never frosted with snowflakes, and there are no ponds to skate or hills to sled. While gardeners in other parts of the country dream of a white Christmas, I have to settle for a green one.

That’s not always bad. Northern friends hoot with laughter at my Hallmark card fantasies about sleigh rides and jingle bells. They say I can have their winter, with its icy streets and snowdrift-covered cars.

But still.

There’s something about Christmas that brings out the dreamer in a lot of us. Maybe I can’t make snow angels, but at least I can find the perfect fresh-cut holiday tree–the one that looks like Christmas, feels like Christmas, and smells like Christmas.

You know that smell. It’s a peppermint stick melting in a mug of hot chocolate and gingerbread baking in the oven. It’s the fragrant smoke from a wood-burning fireplace and the piney scent of a fresh-cut tree.

Different trees have distinctive scents. Crush the needles of a Douglas fir, and you’ll catch a sweet, subtle fragrance. White firs and Grand firs give off a whiff of citrus. Balsam trees, which grow primarily in the northeast, are among the most aromatic. Noble firs are very fragrant, too. There are even trees that allergy sufferers can enjoy, like Leland Cypress, which don’t produce sap and thus have little odor.

Recently I spoke to a couple of Home Depot elves who visited Bottomley Evergreens, a Christmas tree farm in Ennice, N.C. (Visit the tree farm yourself, and meet our associate BostonRoots. Bet you didn’t know elves wore orange aprons.)

Grow2Girl/Home Depot

Bottomley Evergreens in NC.


Mitchell Bottomley, who owns Bottomley Evergreens, took time from his busy schedule to talk to our elves, Grow2Girl and BostonRoots, about how Bottomley’s trees are harvested, baled, and loaded onto trucks for distribution. His Fraser firs are arriving in Home Depot stores around the country now.

Mitchell says his favorite part of his job is watching the tiny seedlings grow into beautiful seven-foot-tall trees, and knowing that customers are happy when they decorate their annual Christmas tree at home. “It takes twelve years,” he says, “for a seed to grow into a 6 to 7 foot tree.”  He and his family decorate with white lights and ornaments his children have made over the years.

If you’ve got room for more than one tree this year, you don’t have to choose a favorite. But if you’re torn between different kinds of trees, our little quiz, below, can help you decide. Which statement best describes you?

A.  I’ve got a collection of large or heavy Christmas ornaments.

B.  My ornaments are lightweight or made of glass.

C.  Fragrance matters to me. When I come home, I want to know it’s Christmas as soon as I open the door.

D.  I love Christmas trees, but who wants to vacuum up all those needles?

E.  I don’t want to take down my tree. Ever.

Grow2Girl/Home Depot

If you picked A, consider a Noble or Fraser fir. Noble firs have strong, evenly spaced branches that can handle heavy decorations, and their upturned needles are long-lasting. Their branches make great wreaths and garlands.

If B describes you, try a Douglas fir. It’s a full, dense tree with soft, fine needles, and it’s a good choice for lightweight or glass ornaments. Douglas firs have a blue-green color and a wonderful smell.

If you chose C, look for a Balsam fir, a tree found in the northeastern U.S. These dark green, aromatic trees have excellent needle retention.

If you said D— any fresh-cut tree will shed some needles, and so will most live ones.  Your best bet is a long-lasting artificial tree or a plant that you can decorate, like a Norfolk Island Pine. After the holidays, you can remove the decorations and enjoy them as houseplants.

And if you picked E, there is a tree you don’t have to toss or take down. You can plant a live tree from the Home Depot Garden Center instead, and enjoy it for years to come!

After The Holidays: Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Some Home Depot stores can recycle your Christmas tree for you after the holidays, helping save space in our landfills. Watch your local ads for information on whether your store has this program. You can find other good uses for it, too:

  • If you have a mulching machine, turn your tree into wood chips for your garden. Don’t have one? Use your pruners to cut the limbs from the trunk and layer them as mulch on garden beds.
  • Save some of the fragrant tree needles for potpourri or sachets.
  • If you have a pond or lake, sink your tree in it to provide shelter for fish and other aquatic life.
  • Make your tree into a feeding station. Hang suet cakes for birds (but watch for marauding squirrels or raccoons.)

 Top image: Anna Maltseva/Shutterstock


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