Stacks of bundled evergreens at Capitol Market are waiting to be unwrapped and decorated.
Real trees just feel more ... Christmassy. Well, to me, anyway. I don't usually have a tree in the house, but I do decorate with all live evergreen garlands.
Of course, there are reasons why people use artificial trees over real ones.
The convenience. There is a certain amount of care required for a real tree to keep it healthy and safe throughout the holiday.
Allergies. Most people are allergic not to the trees or their pollen, but to the ambient pollen, mold and dust that collects on the trees over the years. It's rare to have an allergy to the sap or fragrance of the tree. To cut down on allergies, rinse trees with water outside, or, for small trees, in the shower.
Many people have turned Christmas into a lengthy season, instead of a holiday, and the short lifespan of a real tree doesn't lend itself to months-long celebration. Many traditional celebrations center on putting up the tree around Christmas Eve, and leaving it up until Jan. 6, which is the Feast of Epiphany, and which encompasses the 12 days of Christmas (yes, technically, Christmas is 12 days long).
Caring for a real tree
If you do have a real tree for your celebration, there are some maintenance tips that you should carefully follow.
When selecting a cut tree, make sure it is not discolored or yellowing. You should give it a little bounce on the ground to make sure there aren't a lot of needles falling off. Both are signs that the tree might be past its prime.
When you get the tree home, cut the bottom half-inch off of the bottom to allow the tree to take up water easier. The cut should be perpendicular to the trunk, not at an angle. Sometimes this can be done at the place you buy it (you have six to eight hours to get it to water).
Use a reservoir stand filled with fresh, clean, unadulterated water. The lore of adding ingredients like aspirin, bleach, corn syrup and other things to the water are way overblown and can in some cases reduce the longevity of the tree (they can damage or clog the stem). Your tree will need about 1 quart of water per inch of trunk per day.
Keep the tree away from major sources of heat and open flames. It's also a good idea to keep the room cool to reduce evaporation.
Evaluate this column
Every year at this time, I sit down to reflect upon my work and to write it up for our faculty promotion and tenure files that every WVU Extension agent has to write. As part of this process, I would like to know what you think about the articles I write and what impact they have. So this week, take a moment to visit http://kanawha.ext.wvu.edu/agriculture/evaluate and complete a short survey. This will help me to see the impact of this column and to guide me in the coming year.
John Porter is the WVU Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Kanawha County. He may be reached at john.por...@mail.wvu.edu or at 304-720-9573. Twitter: @WVgardenguru.