Time to bring a tree inside! What? Yes, we have cut and dragged outside evergreen trees into our homes since the beginning of time. Maybe even the cave dwellers did it, just to liven up their interior caves a bit. Drawings on the wall, a few cut logs for sitting on, and a tree in the corner with some bird nests to adorn the branches to give it that realistic look. Add berries strung on deer gut string, why not! I suspect that even that long ago, there was a budding Martha Stewart running around everyone’s caves trying to get them to spruce up their abodes.
Did she know what kind of tree was best for indoor usage? What kind can adapt to being sliced at the base, inserted into prongs and then kept alive with a daily glug of water? What tree shows best with your boxes of accumulated ornaments, including your mom’s and maybe even grandmas?
Evergreen trees stay green all year round, hence the name. They do well in the cold or in the heat with varying shades of green depending on the variety. Evergreens have many different characteristics to choose from. Conifer trees bear cones and are not always evergreens but can be. Ginkgo trees are conifers and not evergreen, am I confusing you?
Common conifer evergreen trees are pine trees, cypress trees, cedar trees, hemlock trees, spruce, and fir trees. Conifer trees act as air purifiers and sound barriers, too. The Blue spruce is most valued for its blue needles that are tinged with silver and chosen often for yards as a display specimen. For indoors, Blue Spruce works well for holding up ornaments, but the needles are sharp as are the needles of Scotch Pine trees. Ouch! These may not be ideal for little kids. Use gloves if you plan to decorate one.
Fraser fir trees are ideal. They have perfectly spaced, sturdy branches for hanging ornaments and lights, and retain their scent and needles long enough to last the holiday season. Balsam fir trees have flat needles and are wonderful to use to make garlands and wreaths from. A nice variety with benefits of lasting long and emitting a lemon smell is the White fir tree.
When you cut a live tree to bring inside, be sure you or your tree retailer will make a fresh cut straight across the bottom of the trunk right before bringing it indoors and placing it in water. A fresh cut will unblock any dried resin and give it a good start for drinking the fluids. Some retailers will sell live, potted trees to bring home. After you house them for the holidays, keep these in a sheltered space from snow and ice and in the spring you can pop them into the ground and grow one.
Hemlocks are fast growers but this species is being killed by an invasive bug called the hemlock wooly adelgid, found along the eastern coast from New England to North Carolina. The browning of needles is blamed on another critter, the hemlock sawfly whose larvae hatch and eat around the edges of the needles. Hemlocks, when not infested, can last over 300 years or more and grow typically to 70 feet. If you want to learn more about the plight the hemlocks all over the states are facing, check out this video called Cathedral: The Fight to Save the Ancient Hemlock of Cook Forest. Cook Forest State Park is in Pennsylvania. Right here in West Virginia, our largest hemlock forests are in Cathedral State Park in Aurora, WV. There are still untouched virgin forests with some trees reaching 90 feet in height and 16 feet in circumference. Worth a visit, for sure.
(Karen Cohen is a nature lover, organic gardener, avid explorer and photojournalist. Email tips, comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and Happy Gardening!)