Cullen: The art of the Christmas tree

Posted by Rumin Mann
December 12th, 2010

The most asked “gardening” question this time of year is, “What is the best Christmas tree?”

It is a great question as not all Christmas trees are created or grown equal and there are new varieties/species offered almost every year. I will get to that in a moment, but first a word in defense of plantation-grown trees.

There are sincere but misguided people out there who will tell you that buying a Christmas tree is bad for the environment. The thinking goes like this: why would you cut a perfectly good tree down in the forest when it could continue to serve a purpose left standing there?

If we cut trees down in the forest for Christmas — trees that otherwise would stand for a long time naturally — I would agree. But the truth is that no respectable retailer in Canada would sell trees that were cut from a natural stand of evergreens. Virtually all of the trees that are available for sale at nurseries, garden centres, retailers, Boy Scouts and church groups are plantation grown.

The truth about the Christmas tree that you buy:

It takes between eight and 10 years to grow a good quality tree. Up to 15 years to grow an exceptional one. Christmas trees are generally grown on marginally productive land to begin with. While growing, they provide valuable protection and a home for a wide variety of wildlife, including birds, deer, rodents and butterflies. Christmas trees sequester carbon and exhale pure, clean oxygen (like all other trees). They reduce soil erosion and filter air borne pollutants. They are not usually fertilized, and the use of pesticides seldom occurs and, when it does, they are used judiciously (Christmas tree growers are not necessarily environmentalists, but the cost of pesticides alone discourages the practice).

Here are the various qualities of the trees that are available:

Canadian Christmas trees: in order of my personal favourites, five star being my favourties and one star a poor choice:

Fraser fir: Tall, straight, wonderful evergreen scent and above average needle retention. A traditional look. Soft needles are easy on the hands. I will put one of these in my home partly because they are easy to set up. Have you ever put up a Christmas tree that had a crooked trunk? It is a test of anyone’s good will and Christmas spirit. Cost for a 7-foot tree is between $45 and $65.

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