O Christmas Tree!

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(HOST) Commentator Charlie Nardozzi has some tips for choosing and maintaining that essential seasonal accessory — the Christmas Tree.

(NARDOZZI) There is nothing that’s more quintessentially Vermont than a fresh cut Christmas tree frosted with fresh snow. Okay, I’ll admit I grew up with an artificial tree most of my youth. Not only did we have a fake tree, it was silver and my mom decorated it with blue lights. It looked like something out of an Elvis Presley movie. So ever since I’ve lived in Vermont, it’s been a fresh cut tree for me.

The classic Vermont Christmas tree is the balsam fir. These trees are known for their intoxicating scent and hold their needles for weeks. Nothing says Christmas to me more than the scent of a freshly cut balsam fir propped up in the living room.

If shape means more to you than scent, then go for a white spruce tree. The dense, stiff needles give this tree the classic Christmas tree shape. However, it doesn’t have the strong scent of a fir tree.

If you want a soft touch for Christmas, try a white pine. When sheered repeatedly while growing, this pine takes on a pyramidal shape, with dense foliage as soft as lamb’s wool with a fresh pine smell. However, the branches aren’t stiff and may not support heavy ornaments.

Whatever tree you choose, there are some things to remember when picking it out. Whenever possible cut your own tree. It’s fresh and you get to choose the exact tree for you. You can even choose a Charlie Brown Christmas tree (as my daughter and I did one year) if it feels right. If you can’t get out on the farm to cut your own tree, select one that’s fresh. Lift up the tree of choice and drop it down on its stump a few times. Then run your hands over the needles. If some needles fall off, the tree is old and won’t last long indoors. If the seller thinks you’re getting funny with his trees, reassure him that’s it’s all sound horticultural practices.

Once you get your prize home, cut off a 1 inch thick piece of the tree butt, remove the lower branches, and place the tree immediately in a stand filled with warm water. Don’t place the tree near a heat source or drafty window or door. Keep the water above the level of the tree butt especially for the first few days as the tree will suck up lots of water. There has been much research about the additives you should put in the water to keep your tree fresh. The bottom line is keep the water filled and don’t worry about adding aspirin, Sprite, birth control pills, or hydrogen peroxide to extend the life of the tree. They won’t help. Depending on the temperature in your house it will probably last 3 to 4 weeks before the needles start to drop. Plenty of time for Santa to find it.

This is Charlie Nardozzi in Shelburne.

Charlie Nardozzi is an all-around gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.

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