Picking the Ideal Tree

seasonal trimming tips you needle to know

Barbara Arnold, photos by Andrea Paulseth

IT’S A SIGN OF THE PINES. Locals search for the perfect conifer at Lowes Creek Tree Farm south of Eau Claire.
IT’S A SIGN OF THE PINES. Locals search for the perfect conifer at Lowes Creek Tree Farm south of Eau Claire.

Wondering how to pick the perfect Christmas tree without having a Clark Griswold experience in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

First things first, according to John Stuve, a certified arborist and sales manager for Tree Savvy Tree Service in Eleva: “Start by measuring the area (height and width) where you want your tree,” he noted. “Remember to measure the width of the door you’ll be carrying it through. Bring along the tree stand and tree toppers like angels and stars to make sure they’ll fit and work.”

Balsam fir, Fraser Fir, and white pines are most common in our area, according to Nancy Skelley, greenhouse manager at Jacobson’s Ace Hardware in Chippewa Falls. Stuve also likes the Canaan fir tree, which comes from Canada.

“Balsam have short, flat needles, are very fragrant, nicely branched, and hold ornaments well, but tend to drop needles a bit,” she continued. “Fraser are short-needled, have a more blue-green color, the needles are not as flat, the underside of the branches have an almost silvery appearance. They hold ornaments well and tend to be less messy. White pines have long needles, and can be a bit harder to decorate.”

Skelley offered the following four pointers for choosing the right tree:

  • Check for a straight trunk, and make sure it fits your stand.
  • Shake pre-cut trees a bit. If the needles fall off, the tree may already be dry.
  • Tree farms will shake your tree for you.
  • Try to buy locally grown trees. Some places buy trees from farms far away where they were cut in September and sat on a truck. Local places usually have recently harvested trees.
  • Even if you go to a tree farm, be sure to give your tree a fresh cut before putting it in the stand. Immediately fill the water well with hot water, then make sure it never goes dry.

Richard and Rochelle Arnold in Eau Claire like to have an outdoor tree they can plant in the spring. You need to pre-order from a nursery, and pick up around Thanksgiving. “The roots are wrapped up in burlap, ball-shaped,” Richard explained. “To keep the roots warm over the winter, you can set the ball on the ground or dig a shallow hole to capture the warmth from the earth, split up a bale or two of hay to cover the burlap root ball, and cover the hay and base of the tree with a tarp to insulate the roots.”

For decorations, you can string bright lights and bigger ornaments. Or string popcorn and cranberries, and enjoy watching the birds and squirrels play on your tree.

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