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Pick out, cut and care for a live Christmas tree
Ron Ballauf has been growing Christmas trees at Rose Acre Tree Farm in Felton, Calif., since 1948. There are many reasons to buy a live tree this year.

Area registered tree farms

Jackson County

7 G’s Christmas Tree Farm, 2331 Old Kings Bridge Road, Nicholson

Maddox Christmas Tree Farm, 612 Murphy Road, Pendergrass

Cooper’s Tree Farm, 5577 Winder Highway, Braselton

Forsyth County

Bottoms Christmas Tree Farm, 5880 John Burruss Road, Cumming

Kinsey Family Farm, 7170 Jot-em-down Road, Gainesville

Source: Georgia Christmas Tree Association

One of the best childhood memories I can remember was going with my dad to pick out a Christmas tree.

He seemed to always make it special for us, even though to him I am sure it was one of things he had to do to keep peace in the house.

No matter the reason why you choose a live Christmas tree for your family there are a few things to keep in mind in order to keep the tree looking good and safe all season long.

Dad would always look for the freshest tree that would still fit inside the house. It is best to pick a tree that is at least a foot shorter than your ceiling. Cutting off the top of a tree to make it fit will ruin the nice shape. Trees often look smaller in the field than they will in your living room.

He would also do a battery of "tests" to make sure the tree had not dried out too much. One such test was to shake and bounce the tree on the ground. This allows you to see if too many needles fell from the tree, but also you can look for insects that might fall out, too. And no one wants an impromptu pet squirrel.

Make sure the trunk of the tree is long enough to fit into the tree stand. Some stands need more base than others.

I remember one of the first things dad would do to the tree when we got it home was to cut the last inch or so from the trunk. I always wondered about that procedure, and after going through forestry school I now understand why.

Think about what happens if you get a small hole in a straw that is in your drink. All of a sudden, it becomes very difficult to get any of your drink up through the straw.

It is the same principle with trees. Trees can be thought of as being made up of straws. When a tree is cut from the stump, an air gap is created at the cut and the tree can no longer suck up water. By cutting the last bit, you access new fresh cells to allow the tree to take in water. This is key to keeping the tree as fresh as possible.

Placement of the tree is important in the home. Try not to get it too close to a fireplace or a heating duct. If the only place for the tree is close to a heating duct, get an air diverter to keep the warm air off the tree.

Lights are always part of the decorations of the tree. Inspect the string of lights as you are putting them on every year. The condition of the lights can change over a year’s time if they have been exposed to rodents or the heat of an attic. When you leave the house or go to bed, turn all the lights on the tree off.

One thing that you should always be aware of is the amount of water in the tree stand. If the water level gets below the bottom of the tree, it can be hard to restart the flow of water again. Keeping the tree hydrated will be your No. 1 way of keeping it fresh and keeping it from becoming a fire hazard in your home.

Live Christmas trees in the home are a great way to build family traditions and memories for your children. Keep these points in mind to keep it safe.

Species matters

The variety of Christmas tree you choose will depend on both your taste and needs. Here are the most common types grown: (note: Fraser firs are grown farther north and shipped to Georgia.)

Leyland cypress: These trees have very little scent and do not drop needles. Varieties of Leyland are Leighton Green, Murray, Naylor’ Blue, Silver Dust and Castlewellan Gold. Because its limbs are rather weak, lightweight ornaments and lights should be used.

Carolina Sapphire, Blue Ice and Arizona Cypress have a stronger smell, but will dry out faster than Leylands.

Virginia pine and white pine: These are considered the standby Southern Christmas trees. The Virginia pine has short needles, strong smell and stiff branches. White pine has longer needles, softer smell and softer branches.

Red cedar: For an old-timey look, Red cedar is the way to go. They have a robust scent and lovely shape, but dry out quickly. Cut these no more than two weeks before Christmas.

Reasons to buy live

Not only are real Christmas trees beautiful, they are good for your health and the environment.

According to Boyd Mountain Tree Farm in Waynesville, N.C.: Artificial trees are made from oil-based products that use up natural resources and create pollution in the process of being manufactured.

Because most of them aren’t recyclable, they will remain in landfills for centuries after disposal. And 85 percent of all fake Christmas trees that are sold in the U.S. are made in China out of PVC plastic.

One acre of Christmas trees can supply enough oxygen for 18 people. Today there are about 500,000 acres of Christmas trees in the United States. The trees also stabilize the soil, protect water supplies and provide a refuge for wildlife. When one Christmas tree is cut down, there are two more planted in its place. They can also be mulched after the holidays, or used in ponds for fish beds.

Time to trim

Here are some tree-trimming tips from a couple of pros, floral designer Lori Reilly of Reilly’s Originals in West Akron and interior designer Christine Haught of Christine Haught Ltd. in Bath Township, Ohio.

Light it up. Reilly recommends starting the light strings in the center of the tree and weaving them out each branch, then back toward the center. That way, the center of the tree will be lighted for a fuller effect.

Create a background. Now’s the time to hang those large orbs. Haught recommends scattering them throughout the center of the tree, so they fill the gaps and create a backdrop for the smaller ornaments.

Once you have a backdrop in place, layer on the medium-size decorations. These might be ornaments or other decorations, such as silk flowers or snowflakes. If you have collections of these items, spread them out evenly over the tree, Haught said. Then finish with the smaller ornaments.

Top the tree. Trees don’t need to be topped just by stars or angels. Reilly likes creating toppers from elements used elsewhere on the tree, such as floral accents and twigs. Even a big bow looks pretty, she said.

MCT News Serives contributed to this report


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