The concept of a real living Christmas tree is rather enticing for many people, and it makes good sense for most of the country. Planning, as with many things, is the key to success with this imitative. If you live in a more moderate part of Canada, let’s say most of British Columbia and southern Ontario, a living, containerized tree is well worth the effort. Ultimately, the selected evergreen will become part of your landscape so establish a location for the tree initially. When the soil is still workable, prepare a hole and keep the soil that you remove in a frost-free area, perhaps the garage. Garden centers and retail nurseries will have oodles of evergreens to select from, including spruce, pine and balsam fir. Personally, I prefer to select the containerized tree from an outdoor location so that it has been already subjected to lower temperatures. Often times however, this option is not available, so I resort to the indoor selections. Keep in mind that your perfect specimen will undergo rather distasteful conditions indoors, so if at all possible, select a location in your home that is cooler and away from direct heat sources. Initially, leave your tree in the garage or some location that mimics the condition that it came from. Moving a seasonally hardened specimen indoors immediately can cause excessive needle drop and generally reduces the lifespan of the tree. You could consider moving your tree to the garage for the daytime and back indoors, near the garage or cool area for the nighttime. The same process is used in reverse when it comes time to plant the tree outdoors. The tree will require a gradual reduction in temperature before it is planted in its new permanent home.
As this specimen is a living entity water is an absolute must and unfortunately the cause of the demise of many holiday trees. Overwatering actually kills more plants than a drier situation so be cautious and only water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Another potential hazard is the type of lights and decorations placed on the living specimen. LED lights are by far the best as they emit extremely low heat values yet give a nice display.
Planting your living Christmas tree makes for a wonderful family event once the weather is cooperating. Gather the clan and set about to plant your new specimen. As the soil that you removed earlier in the season is not frozen it will be easy to use now. If your tree was purchased in a fibre pot, remove the lip to soil level and cut the entire bottom away. This process helps to ensure that the rootball or mass is undisturbed when you install it into the prepared hole. In the event that your plant was in a plastic nursery container, remove the pot carefully so as to keep the root mass intact. Place the tree in the hole so that the original soil level of the container is even with the ground. Backfill approximately 50% with the stored soil from the garage and water the installation well. Fill the remainder of the hole with soil, form a collar or moat of soil around the plant and water again freely. The soil will sooner or later freeze with this reservoir of water ready for the spring thaw. Many gardeners will wrap their tree with burlap to prevent wind and sun damage and often apply a spray of WiltPruf® or similar anti-desiccant to slow down transpiration. Well worth the little bit of extra planning and the results are very rewarding.
December 10th, 2017