Christmas Tree Choices

Christmas tree selection and care, along with the history of decorating evergreen trees

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Varieties of Christmas trees

Several varieties of Christmas trees have been used over the decades and across the globe.

The most commonly used Christmas trees in the midwest and northeastearn US are Scotch Pine, White Pine, Colorado Spruce, Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir and Fraser Fir, with prices ascending in that order (Fir trees are the most expensive).

Christmas tree plantations are so common in western Pennsylvania that Indiana, PA is known as the 'Christmas Tree Capital of the World.'

   Trees bundled, stacked and ready to sell at a Christmas tree sales lot. The more recently a tree was cut, the longer it will stay fresh inside your house.

Trees bundled, stacked and ready to sell at a Christmas tree sales lot. The more recently a tree was cut, the longer it will stay fresh inside your house.


Photos of various types of Christmas trees

   Balsam Fir   Abies balsamea

Balsam Fir
Abies balsamea

   Balsam Fir foliage

Balsam Fir foliage


   Colorado Blue Spruce   Picea pungens

Colorado Blue Spruce
Picea pungens

   Blue Spruce foliage

Blue Spruce foliage


   Douglas Fir   Pseudotsuga menziesii

Douglas Fir
Pseudotsuga menziesii

   Douglas Fir foliage

Douglas Fir foliage


   Eastern White Pine   Pinus strobus

Eastern White Pine
Pinus strobus

   White Pine foliage

White Pine foliage


   Fraser Fir   Abies fraseri

Fraser Fir
Abies fraseri

   Fraser Fir foliage

Fraser Fir foliage


   Noble Fir   Abies procera

Noble Fir
Abies procera

   Noble Fir foliage

Noble Fir foliage


   Norway Spruce   Picea abies

Norway Spruce
Picea abies

   Norway Spruce foliage

Norway Spruce foliage


   Scotch Pine   Pinus sylvestris

Scotch Pine
Pinus sylvestris

   Scotch Pine foliage

Scotch Pine foliage


Cut-your-own Christmas tree near Pittsburgh, Pa:

Allison’s Christmas Trees - Aliquippa (724) 495-2680

Bertovich Christmas Tree Farm - Industry (724) 244-9520

Cypher’s Christmas Tree Farm - Butler (724) 477-8733

Grupp’s Christmas Trees - Harmony (724) 368-3249

Martin’s Christmas Tree Farm - Belle Vernon (412) 496-7827

McMeekin Christmas Tree Farm - Penn Hills (412) 242-6329

Nutbrown’s Christmas Tree Farm - Carnegie (412) 330-0240

Ski Christmas Tree Farm - Sarver (724) 353-2648


Live potted Christmas trees

For those with smaller dwellings who still desire to have a 'live' tree, a potted Christmas tree will work very nicely.

The most common varieties used for potted Christmas trees are Dwarf Alberta Spruce and Norfolk Island Pine. Potted trees usually come in a variety of sizes with various decorations.

   Dwarf Alberta Spruce   Picea glauca 'Conica'

Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Picea glauca 'Conica'


   Norfolk Island Pine   Araucaria Hetrophylla

Norfolk Island Pine
Araucaria Hetrophylla

Norfolk Island Pine is often used as a potted indoor live Christmas tree, as well as grown as a houseplant in the northern regions of the US, since it isn't hardy in cold climates.


Christmas tree care FAQ's

Q. What type of fresh-cut Christmas tree lasts the longest?

A. Bob recommends Fir trees. Their extra cost is really worth it when it comes to their longevity, soft needles and that "fresh-peeled Orange" aroma. Douglas Fir is quite popular, but Bob likes the Fraser Fir, with its thick, soft, fragrant needles highlighted with silver undersides.
BOB'S TIP: When you get your cut tree home, cut a thin sliver off the base of the trunk and store the tree in a container of water in the garage until the tree is placed in its stand.

   Cutting a thin sliver off the base of the trunk before putting it in the tree stand will improve water uptake.

Cutting a thin sliver off the base of the trunk before putting it in the tree stand will improve water uptake.


KEEPING YOUR TREE FRESH (..and floor clean)

  • Display your tree away from hot air vents and pay close attention to the water level in the tree stand, especially during the first days (and weeks) after you put the tree up, since they always come home thirsty! (Cut the sliver off before bringing the tree inside, see Tip above)

  • Placing a large plastic tree bag "skirt" around the base of the tree when first setting your tree up makes tree removal from your house after Christmas much neater.

  • Many municipalities offer recycling of evergreen trees after the holidays, turning them into wood chips and mulch, which is far better than a landfill.


Q. What can we do to keep our Christmas tree, wreaths and greens fresh longer?
A. Bob recommends spraying holiday greens with an "anti-desiccant" such as "WILT PRUF" before you bring them inside (follow label directions). This milky-looking substance dries to a shiny clear coating that helps seal in moisture, keeping greens fresh longer.


Bob's 10 tips for success with a "live" earth ball Christmas tree:

1) Try to dig a hole for the tree in advance of planting time, on a day when the weather is decent. Cover your soil pile with a waterproof tarp. Your hole should be no deeper than the root ball and about 12 inches wider on each side. 
2) Don't keep the tree in the house any longer than necessary -- two weeks should be the maximum. 
3) Only water the tree once or twice while it is inside.  Remember - the tree is dormant and has lower water requirements. 
4)  Locate the tree away from a heat source. 
5) Lift the tree by the root ball when moving it. "Double team it" when lifting for safety and ease. 

   Soil weighs about 100 lbs per cubic foot so a root ball can easily weigh a couple hundred pounds. Lift it by the rootball - try having two people lift with one on each side to help prevent back injuries.

Soil weighs about 100 lbs per cubic foot so a root ball can easily weigh a couple hundred pounds. Lift it by the rootball - try having two people lift with one on each side to help prevent back injuries.

6) Water the tree thoroughly following outdoor planting. 
7) Remove constricting ropes and synthetic wraps from the trunk area and root ball when planting. 
8) Stake the tree (if it is at all "wobbly") for the first growing season. 
9) Plant the tree where it will have adequate room to mature. 
10) Water the tree once a week in dry weather during the first growing season.
For more information see Bob's Christmas tree planting page


Q. Is it true that dissolving an aspirin in the water reservoir of a cut Christmas tree helps it stay fresh longer?
A. No, not true. I'm not sure if it qualifies as an old wives' tale, but adding aspirin - or anything else - to the water in the tree stand reservoir does nothing to prolong the useful life of a cut Christmas tree. Research indicates that the most important things you can do to keep a cut tree fresh are:

1) Select a fresh tree. Bumping the trunk on the ground normally results in some dropped needles and debris, but if a tree drops lots of dead needles, it may be an indication that it was cut a while ago.

2) Once you get it home, remove one-quarter inch of wood from the bottom of the trunk to expose fresh water conductive vessels. This ensures that the tree is able to take up adequate water. Be sure to make the cut straight across the base so that the tree sits properly in the stand. Get it into water as soon as possible. Stick it in a bucket until you have the tree stand ready.

3) Keep the reservoir filled with water and never allow the tree to dry out. Make sure that the base of the tree is submerged in water.


History of Christmas trees

Decorating with evergreens had its early beginnings during mid-winter festivals in ancient times when evergreen foliage was brought inside for decoration.

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In the early 1500's, the first documented history of a decorated evergreen tree is linked to the Alsace region, straddling France and Germany.

From that point forward most Christmas tree history and development is credited to Germany.


Christmas tree decorations

Early German Christmas trees were decorated with gold foil, colored paper, apples and confections. It's said that Martin Luther was the first to use candles to decorate a Christmas tree.

German immigrants brought the Christmas tree custom to England, where it later emigrated to America. A colleague of Thomas Edison's is credited with creating the first string of electric Christmas lights in 1882, thereby cutting down on the hazard of using lit candles on a flammable tree.

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O Christmas Tree song

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How are thy leaves so verdant?
Not only in the summertime
But ev'n in winter is thy prime
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How are thy leaves so verdant?

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!
For every year the Christmas tree
Brings to us all both joy and glee
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light
That makes each toy to sparkle bright
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
thy candles shine out brightly!

Note: Lyrics to this song vary, but the lyrics above seem to be the most common. Definition of VERDANT: Green with vegetation; covered with a green growth; green in color.


Christmas tree history in the US

The first retail Christmas tree sales lot in the United States was opened in 1851 in New York City. Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United States, brought the first Christmas tree into the White House in 1856. President Calvin Coolidge started the national Christmas tree lighting ceremony in 1923.

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Christmas tree trivia

  • Approximately 28 million real Christmas trees are sold annually in the US.

  • US Christmas tree production covers about 500,000 acres. Each acre of trees provides the daily oxygen requirement of 18 people.

  • The average time required to grow a cut Christmas tree is 7 years.

  • Top 6 Christmas tree growing states: Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

  • Top selling Christmas trees: Balsam Fir, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Noble Fir, Scotch Pine, Virginia Pine and White Pine.

MORE:

Christmas wreaths

How to keep a Christmas tree fresh

Christmas tree planting tips