Like Christmas tree scent, get a fir

Blue Spruce trees hold ornaments well. (AP)

WASHINGTON – If you’re confused by all the different kinds of Christmas trees on farms and lots, WTOP Garden Editor Mike McGrath says, decide on what you want.

“If you want scent, get a fir. If you’re going to load the tree down with ornaments, get a blue spruce,” says McGrath.

Blue Spruce trees have strong branches that can hold heavy ornaments.

“The side effect of that is the tree is so sturdy that you have to wear gloves when you’re putting it up or reaching into it, because the needles stay sharp indoors.”

Fir trees, on the other hand, have that Christmas fragrance.

“They also hold their needles longer, which is very important because you see people getting their trees very early.”

For color, the blue spruce is unmatched, McGrath says.

“It’s a color that in almost every other situation would have to be spray-painted onto the tree. And the shape is almost always perfect.”

“Perfect” as it may be, there are fashions in Christmas trees, as with everything else. The Balsam Fir, the most fragrant in the forest, was once the most popular tree.

The lightweight Fraser Fir may be the current top choice for its depth and its needles, which are dark on top and silver underneath.

“Fir trees are heavily planted and heavily promoted as Christmas trees for good reason. They’re very soft and very easy to work with,” McGrath says.

The White Fir, renamed Concolor, is gaining in popularity, he says.

“Like the other firs, it has a wonderful fragrance. But in this case, the fragrance has a strong hint of citrus – a lemony smell – that goes along with that Christmas tree smell, which you won’t get anywhere else.”

After you decide which kind of tree to buy, McGrath recommends that you consider buying it from a tree farm.

“D.C. recently had a problem with one of these wood-boring beetles, and these insects, which are ravaging American forests, travel around in Christmas trees that are shipped vast distances, and on firewood.”

Besides supporting a local business and helping to keep rural land undeveloped, McGrath says you are not “helping transport nuisance insects from state to state.”

Tiny bugs can devastate an entire type of tree.

“Think back to Dutch Elm disease, caused by a single insect that people didn’t take seriously. Now our ash trees are threatened. And there are insects, fungi and bacteria that are affecting evergreens.”

McGrath says that in the future you may see restrictions on trees that are being carted state to state.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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