For most homes, the Christmas holidays wouldn't be complete without a tree festooned with its illuminations gracing the living room. Now, peoples taste in Christmas trees varies greatly as these holiday symbols come in all shapes and sizes, from the little artificial ones with shiny aluminium needles to the gigantic almost mature specimens that grace our town centres. To suit peoples tastes there are a wide variety of natural Christmas tree types available on the market.
The main species of Christmas trees grown and sold in Ireland are the Noble fir, lodgepole pine and Norway spruce.
The Noble fir (Abies procera) originally came from the Pacific North West of the USA, is symmetrical in shape with dense blue-green needles that expel a lovely pine fragrance. The needle-holding qualities of this Christmas tree are excellent even when let to dry out slightly.
Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), which originated in the North West of the USA, is aptly named having been used to build the Native American lodges. It also has a lovely pine scent and good needle retention qualities but is more conical in shape than the Noble Fir.
Finally we have the Norway spruce (Picea abies) which is the traditional Christmas tree but the increased use of the previous two species due to superior needle holding capabilities have relegated it to third place. It takes between 7 and 10 years for all these trees to reach their most popular sizes of 6ft and 7ft. While growing, they provide habitats for many forest animals and birds.
Whichever natural Christmas trees you opt to go for, simply hauling it home and plonking it in your sitting room is not all that is required for a prolonged Christmas focal point. Following a few easy preparation and maintenance tasks will allow your tree to continue fresh through to the New Year with its full allocation of needles intact.
When you return home with your Christmas tree, select a safe place to position it, preferably in corner where it is unlikely to be knocked over. Keeping it away from stoves and radiators will help to prolong its needles and lessen fire danger. It is natural and common for a conifer tree to accelerate the shedding of needles if they are allowed to dry out. So, using a small saw, cut about an inch off the bottom of the tree at a slight angle to create a fresh wound to aid water absorption. Next, the tree should be placed in a stand with a large reservoir of water. Check and water the tree as required 3 times daily, or you will need to buy another one next week.
Finally, be aware that for safety, Christmas tree lights should always be turned off at bedtime or when leaving for an extended period.
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