O Tannenbaum! Picking A Christmas Tree

This post was written by jd on December 15, 2009
Posted Under: Education,Local Writers & Contributors


Photo Courtesy of Christmas Lights Etc.

By Elizabeth Dunn, Landscape Architect

It’s the holiday season, when the eggnog is back in the stores, the fruitcakes come out of the cupboard, and my hand is cramped from writing Christmas cards.  It is also the time of year for magic and one of the best combinations of aromas.  Hot chocolate with candy canes, cloves in oranges, and Christmas trees!

Nordman Fir

Nordman Fir

The Nevada County Farm Guide for 2009 lists several places to find Christmas Trees, and some of the local nurseries have live trees available.  These trees can be planted in the yard after Christmas.  They are not in pots or boxes but have their roots and attached soil wrapped in burlap. In the industry they are called balled and burlapped or B&B on the plant list.  It allows for less waste when planting the tree because there are not wooden boards or plastic pots to send to a landfill or recycling center.  The tree is planted with the burlap still in place.  Before the hole is filled the burlap is pulled back from the top 1/3 of the rootball, the natural fiber rope is cut from the trunk and in a few other spots, and then the hole is filled with the appropriate mixture of planting soil.

I spend a couple Saturdays a month working at Peaceful Valley.  They have live trees for sale.  Having never worked on a Christmas tree farm, I enjoyed helping people pick out their tree.  It was even more magical knowing that they will be able to enjoy the tree well into the future.  It is recommended that they plant the tree in their fire safe zone, keep it irrigated for at least the first three years while it is becoming established, and eventually, after several years, remove the lower branches.

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir is one of the favorites.  It is listed as native to Nevada County in the Master Garden’s Western Nevada County Gardening Guide.  It is not a True Fir tree as its botanical genus name, Pseudotsuga, shows.  However, according to the National Forestry Association, it is one of the fastest growing conifers in the temperate forests and is the most important lumber species in the US.

White Fir

White Fir

True Fir Trees have the botanical genus name of Abies.  With my unscientific poll, this genus is best because of its scent. “It just smells like Christmas!” many friends say.  There are several species of True Firs.  The Nordman Fir is popular as an indoor potted plant.  It has evenly spaced branches that easily showcase a range of ornaments. Sunset’s Western Garden Book notes that the Nordman is one of the best adapted Firs for California gardens.

Corkbar Fir

Corkbar FirWhite Fir

There are so many more evergreen trees out there.  The Cedar, Cypress, Pine, Sequoia, and Spruce are all trees that are used for Christmas Trees and decoration.  With proper care and the right location, any species of tree will provide years of wonder.  Its ornaments next year can be popcorn and red berry chains.  The magic will be heard when the winter birds are singing from its branches and it will be felt when standing close to the tree and listening to the silence of the snow as it falls all around.

Happy Holidays!

Elizabeth Dunn is a licensed Landscape Architect. She spends the majority of her work days in the studio of Rebecca Cofffman Landscape Architects in Nevada City, CA



Nevada County Farm Guide

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply

Western Nevada County Gardening Guide

UCCE Nevada County Master Gardeners, c. 2006

Western Garden Book, Sunset Books, sixth printing, c. 1998

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Michael Dirr, c. 1998

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Reader Comments

Great article! Great pictures too!


Written By Anonymous on December 16th, 2009 @ 10:18 AM