Sunday 21 November 2004

The Ghost of Christmas Trees Past

I have a confession to make. I was once a misguided opponent of natural Christmas trees.

I was under the false perception that buying a “real” Christmas tree resulted in the destruction of a living tree to the determent of the environment. For a few years I put up petroleum based plastic tree.

Then one year as a fund raiser while in college, our student forestry group took on a project growing and marketing real Christmas trees. We really inherited some one else’s work because growing trees takes upwards of ten years. We went out in August and picked out our trees, marking them for harvest once the weather was cooler. They had been previously trimmed and shaped to have the perfect Christmas tree form. Once harvested, we carted our festive bounty to the center of town. The stand was set up in the typical fashion, with rows of trees ready for the holidays. The operation was quite a success and is still an ongoing fund raiser for the Paul Bunion Forestry Club. It’s also a lot of hard work and many cold hours of waiting for customers. It made a real tree convert out of me.

The fact is that a real Christmas tree spends 10 years of its life growing on a farm, storing carbon and providing oxygen and wildlife shelter. For every Christmas tree that is harvested 2-3 trees are planted in its place with the hope that they will grow to maturity. Small fast growing trees store carbon at a greater rate than older mature trees. Real trees are grown by real people quite often on marginal land. Tree farming is a source of diversified farm income. In many towns and cites Christmas trees are recycled into mulch and compost to slowly biodegrade and returning to the environment.

Every Christmas I am asked “What is the key to keeping a Christmas tree looking good through the holidays?” In one word “fresh”, buy your tree fresh, keep it fresh and cool until you’re ready to bring it inside. Follow a few rules to keep it fresh. When you bring the tree inside cut the bottom inch or 2 cm off the trunk to expose new wood. Put the base of the tree into water and keep it submerged at all times, if it dries out, cut the bottom again. This is hard to do once the tree is fully decked out, so don’t let it run out of water. Keep the tree away from sources of heat, such as baseboard heaters and registers.

In Manitoba the best source for fresh trees is a reputable local dealer, or Manitoba Christmas Tree Growers Association members, who have u-cut operations across the province. They can be located on line at

You can also phone a real person, Patricia at 204-453-7105 for more information.

A final word of advice from my vacuum cleaner repair man, “Scots pine needles are best swept”.

Happy holidays and enjoy a real Manitoba Christmas tree.

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