Keep Living Trees Safe for the Holidays

| 12/9/2008 2:04:49 PM

Like herbs, evergreen trees have a powerful fragrance, some even with medicinal properties, and with a few simple steps, you can find the perfect tree to keep safe from fire and fresh throughout the holidays.

1. Aroma is everything. Balsam fir, Arizona cypress and Virgina pine are three of the most fragrant varieties. Balsam fir, a relative of the Fraser fir, has a sharp, rosemary-fresh scent, and its pitch, or the sappy resin that makes a tree sticky, is a natural anti-bacterial and an astringent that was used to treat wounds during the Civil War. Arizona cypress has a steel blue tint and a lemony-mint smell while Virginia pine has the traditional piney-holiday scent classic for the holidays

2. Get it fresh. When selecting a pre-cut tree, pinch a branch near the trunk and pull toward you. If several needles dislodge, the tree is dry and may be dangerous in your home. Next, bounce the tree and notice shed needles – paying special attention to the edges of the tree. More needles should fall from the interior; this is normal.

3. Cut the base and water well. Saw at least an inch off the trunk of your tree when you get it home and place immediately in a sturdy tree stand with a large water reservoir. Trees are amazingly thirsty and can absorb nearly a gallon a day, so check frequently, especially in the first few days. Never let the water level drop below the cut; if it does the pitch will seal the trunk and the tree will not be able to drink.

4. Recycle when you first notice dryness. While a wet, well-watered tree is very hard to set on fire, dry trees are extremely flammable. As you can see in this video, a dry pine left unattended can destroy a living room in under a minute.

Most communities have a tree recycling program, but if not, you can reuse your tree in your garden as a bird feeder, as mulch or even as a weed killer.

While some sites suggest chopping and burning your used tree DON'T! Most trees have something called creosote, which, when burned, even responsibly, can leave deposits in your chimney and can be carcinogenic.

A better option is to use the tree in your garden and adorn with bird feeders - or save the needles to scatterONLY ONweeds as an herbicide. You can also strip the tree of its needles, dry them outside and use them in muslin fabric for a rich, fragrant punch.

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