Pick the right Christmas tree for your home

'Tis the season to be picking out Christmas trees and decorating for the holidays. In this story, Davey Tree's R.J. Laverne talks to the Cleveland Plain Dealer Homes editor Julie Washington about the different types of Christmas trees. He also helps provide some tips on what to do before you buy that perfect tree. Read the story below or go here to read it at the Plain Dealer's web site (the link includes a gallery of Christmas tree photos).

By Julie Washington

Printed Dec. 5, 2012

Decorate with an artificial Christmas tree, and it's the same every year. Seek out a live tree, and the variety of foliage, shapes and sizes makes every year a surprise.

"There's nothing quite like a live tree. It's the scent of Christmas," said R.J. Laverne, manager of education and training at the Davey Tree Expert Co. in Kent.

Every year, he and his family trek to a tree farm, where they scour the rows for a perfect tree. Sometimes the process includes heated negotiations.

How to choose?

"Pick one that speaks to you," Laverne said. "Pick one that says, 'I'm your tree; I want to go home with you.' "

Before your family heads to a Christmas tree lot or tree farm, think about what kind of tree will best suit your needs. Nature provides trees that have glorious scents or none at all; stiff branches or droopy ones. Do a little homework, and you'll know when the right tree wants to come home with you.

What to do before buying a tree

These tips and suggestions for selecting the perfect live Christmas tree come from the Davey Tree Expert Co. in Kent, the Holden Arboretum and Doityourself.com.

1. Measure the space in your home where your tree will sit. A tree in the outdoors will look smaller than it will inside. Take a tape measure to the retail lot or tree farm.

2. Decide whether you want a cut tree or one with a burlapped root ball that can be planted later. You can keep a live tree in the house for about four days before planting it.

3. Look for a straight trunk and balanced foliage with no gaping holes.

4. Take along a tarp or blanket to spread across your car's roof to prevent scratches. Bring extra rope or bungee cords.

5. Discuss with your family ahead of time what kind of tree you are looking for and how much you are prepared to spend. Explain to young children that the idea isn't to pick out the biggest tree on the lot.

6. At a retail lot, ask how fresh the trees are. When you get home, cut the trunk again and put it in a holder with water mixed with Sprite or 7-Up, said Ethan Johnson of Holden Arboretum. "You're going to have excellent needle retention," Johnson said.

• Planting a live tree:

Dig the hole before the ground freezes and fill it with straw. Buy the tree just one or two days before Christmas and plant it the day after the holiday. If you wait longer, your home's warmth may trigger growth in the dormant tree. Pine or spruce live trees are easier to grow in Northeast Ohio.

• At a cut-your-own tree farm:

Call ahead to determine hours and what equipment you need to bring. You may need your own saw and safety goggles.

Prepare to walk across uneven ground. Dress warmly, wear sturdy shoes and bring work gloves.

 

Canaan fir branches.

Keep children away from saws and other farm equipment.

Follow these tips for using a hand saw safely: Be sure your saw is in good condition and the blade is free from rust and sap. About 6 inches above the ground, cut a triangular wedge in the direction you want the tree to fall, going through about 40 percent of the trunk. Then cut a horizontal back cut on the opposite side about an inch above the first cut.

• Recycling:

Many Northeast Ohio cities recycle discarded Christmas trees into mulch or wood chips. The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District website has a list of cities that have curbside collection of trees.

Summit County residents can drop off live trees without ornaments or tinsel at five locations in the Metro Parks.

 

• Spruces, including white and Colorado blue:

Spruces have a beautiful shape and color; Colorado blue spruce grows in the classic Christmas tree shape.

Needles are stiff and sharp, so this might not be a good choice for homes with small children. Branches can hold heavy ornaments. Spruces are prone to dropping their needles. They are not as fragrant as firs.

Expect to pay $70 to $80 for an 8-foot tree.

 

• Pines, including Scotch and Eastern white:

White pines grow huge when mature and have the traditional Christmas tree look. Fluffy-looking branches are dense on the tree's exterior but thin on the inside. Flexible branches can't hold heavy ornaments. White pine has good needle retention.

Scotch pine tends to look scruffy and have a crooked trunk. It has less foliage than white pine, but it will remain fresh for about a month with regular watering. It's easy to replant if you buy a tree with its roots. Scotch pine has no aroma; needles are prickly, but they don't fall even if the tree dries out.

Expect to pay $40 to $50 for an 8-foot tree.

 

• Firs, including balsam, fraser and Canaan (which is a cross between balsam and fraser):

These trees cost more than pines because they grow slower, but the extra expense might be worth it. Fir trees' stiff branches will hold heavy decorations, needles won't shed even if you forget to water, and the scent will make the house smell like Christmas. Their open branches leave room for lots of ornaments.

Balsam firs have a dense crown shaped like a pyramid and a spirelike tip perfect for your tree topper. Fraser firs have branches that turn slightly upward, flattened needles and a compact appearance.

Expect to pay $70 to $80 for an 8-foot tree.

 

• Douglas fir:

Despite its name, the Douglas fir is not a true fir tree. Like the firs, it has flexible needles and good needle retention. Limber branches can't support heavy decorations, but it has a pleasant scent.

It might be more expensive than a true fir.

Expect to pay $80 and up for an 8-foot tree.

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