Posts tagged: Christmas trees

An Ugly Christmas Tree

By , December 18, 2008 9:47 pm

I have been feeling very un-bloggy lately, hence my silence.  Do I really have anything interesting to say?  Does anyone care?  Is it worth my precious time writing?  Hmmm….  Big questions.

So please excuse my absence, but let me talk now about our Christmas tree.  It is ugly, yet beautiful.  Humble, yet profound.

First a bit of background on my eternal Christmas tree angst.  I have always hated the thought of cutting down a living tree to decorate my house for a few weeks and then toss out (even if recycled into mulch).  If I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have a tree at all.  But the tree, and all the ornaments that are rediscovered year after year, are so much a fun and memorable part of a child’s Christmas, that I hate to deny them that.

Yes, we could decorate a ficus, but the idea of singing carols and sipping cocoa around the Christmas Ficus just doesn’t have the same cozy appeal to it.  And since I am the kiss of death for houseplants, I’d simply be substituting a fir tree death sentence for that of a ficus.

I have done living trees before and then planted them in the yard (when I had a yard that was not packed full of pine trees already).  That was lovely, but they can only be inside for a few days, are heavy, and here – pine trees grow like weeds.  No room for more!

For the last 6 years I have had an artificial tree.  It was easy, three pieces to put together and lights already on it, but Christmas seems artificial enough to me in so many ways, without a fake tree too.  Plus, it always felt kind of nasty to touch and probably oozed all kinds of chemicals.  Not very Christmassy.

This year I came up with what I think is the perfect solution, for us anyway.  We have so many trees on our property and, as I said above, Ponderosa pines literally grow like weeds here.  After a good rain, hundreds of seedlings miraculously appear as you can see in this picture:

Despite my aversion to tree cutting, we are in desperate need of thinning a bit.  Fire safety is a HUGE issue here, especially after our close call in 2002.  Plus, the smaller trees sap the meager nutrients and scarce water from the more mature trees leaving them tall, but thin and sickly looking.

I don’t want to get into a forest management lecture or debate here, but the truth is that we really need to take out some of the smaller trees that are growing close to the larger ones before a fire does it for us.

So, with that in mind, I had the idea to cut a small one down and make it our Christmas tree.  It would eventually be cut anyhow, but at least this way it would go in a blaze of richly adorned glory and be much enjoyed and remembered.

We picked a thin one growing near a mature one and all went out to “help” my husband with the cutting. Despite a bad back and even worse weather that day, he got it done.

Then, “we,” as in my husband – under my direction – cut it in half.  The original tree was only about three inches in diameter but probably 16 feet tall with all the branches at the top.  We ended up with an 8 foot tall tree that fits nicely in our tall living room.

It was so thin and light that the kids were able to carry it into the house themselves.

The cats thought it was wonderful having their very own tree lying in the middle of the front entryway.

Here is the final result:

It is rather a spindly, thin, pathetic tree, but Ponderosas don’t have a very thick array of branches, especially when young.

However, as my daughter said:  “This is my favorite tree ever because you can see the ornaments!”  Yes, you can.

This is my favorite tree ever because, although it may not be perfect, we chose it and cut it ourselves, gave it a “new life,” and it cost no money!

I don’t want a perfect Christmas, I just want one the the children will remember fondly, and I hope that they might remember this.

(You can read more about Christmas tree options here: The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma)

The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , November 28, 2007 12:28 am

So you have made your list and decided that a Christmas tree is a tradition that has meaning to you. That’s a good start, but what kind of tree do you get?

I personally have had an artificial tree for years thinking that it was better for the environment than causing the death of a real tree every year. Of course it is the kind of tree with the lights built in because I am a Holiday Slacker when it comes to preparation and one thing I REALLY dislike, is stringing lights.

I am beginning to wonder however about the composition of my Chinese-made tree. I did once see a small label on it warning that pregnant women should avoid prolonged contact with the tree. Huh??? I have been pregnant twice and been hauling the tree up and down from the attic etc. I think that this year might be the Swan Song for our tree. It’ll be a one-way trip from the attic this year.

So if you choose to have a Christmas tree, what should you do?? I think the answer depends on many factors, but here are all the options that I can think of:

1) Buy real cut tree from vendor:

PLUSES: Easy. Real tree (if that is what you want).

MINUSES: Dead tree. Where did tree come from and what chemicals and pesticides was it exposed to? Apparently some growers treat their trees with substances that help keep the needles on, or even green coloring!! Drops needles. Potential fire hazard. Disposal issues.

2) Artificial tree:

PLUSES: Easy, does not cause a tree to die on your behalf. Will last for years.

MINUSES: What is it exuding into the atmosphere of your home? PVC and lead. Can be pricey.

3) Live tree: Many nurseries sell live Christmas trees in pots that you can bring in and decorate for Christmas and then later plant outside in your garden and watch grow. I have done this twice and I really love this idea. However the trees (even smaller ones of just three or four feet) are pretty heavy to move and require temperature transition periods in a garage. Also, you can’t keep them inside for long, a few days at most (although I have also heard that up to seven days is OK).

PLUSES: A tree that will live on and grow happily in your garden for years to come.

MINUSES: Heavy. Can’t be inside for long. Fussy due to transition period. Must plant, therefore requires digging a hole in your (or a friend’s?) garden.

Recommendations for live-tree care:

Living Christmas Trees

How to Care for a Live Christmas Tree

4) Live tree rental: Some companies (few and far between) will rent you a live, potted tree. They deliver it and then pick it up again. After that it goes to a park or school or some other group who, for a nominal fee will accept to have the tree planted on their property. What a win-win! Families can enjoy a live tree without the headache, and parks and other worthy spaces get new trees for a teeny fraction of the cost of buying the trees themselves!

PLUSES: Live tree. No fuss. Help beautify your city.

MINUSES: Not available in very many places. Portland, OR, San Diego, CA, or San Fransisco, CA (no pines though) are the only ones that I know of except for a possible IKEA tree-rental program this year (read on).

I read here that IKEA is renting Christmas trees this year! You must pick it up this weekend between Friday, November 30th through Sunday, December 2nd (bring $24.99 which is actually $14.99 plus a $10.00 deposit, and helpers because these trees are in pots and are heavy). You get a 5 – 7 foot Douglas Fir to enjoy through the holidays. You can then either plant the tree and lose your $10.00 deposit, or return the tree and get your $10 back in the form of an IKEA gift card. If you have a local IKEA you might want to call and verify this information before getting too excited. I read this on a Seattle real-estate blog and couldn’t find anything about it on IKEA’s website. Have any of you heard of this? Sounds good to me!

More tree-rental links:

An Earth-friendly Christmas Tree

Feel Guilty Buying a Christmas Tree? Rent One

5) Cut your own tree: There are many tree farms out there that will allow you to cut your own tree. Also, in my area, the Forest Service sells permits to go out on Forest Service land and cut a tree.

There are also “organic tree farms” out there if you are concerned about supporting tree farms using pesticides and chemicals. Be sure to check this great organic Christmas Tree Farm list from Green Promise to see if there is one near you.

PLUSES: You know it is fresh and real. Could be fun family outing.

MINUSES: Cutting and transporting might be a hassle for some. Killing a tree. Pesticides? Needle dropping and disposal issues.

6) Mail-order trees: Yes, you can order just about anything by mail these days, including your Christmas tree. Real Simple has a link to some mail order Christmas tree farms.


MINUSES: You can’t pick your exact tree. Pricey.

7) Create your own tree: Be artistic and make your own Christmas tree out of wood, real branches or plastic water bottles.

PLUSES: Environmentally friendly. Reusable from year to year.

MINUSES: A plastic water bottle tree?? Hmm.

8) Decorate a houseplant: Why not decorate your ficus? Or any other houseplant that you have?

PLUSES: Environmentally friendly. Inexpensive (you already have the plant). Easy. Reusable from year to year.

MINUSES: It won’t be the classic Christmas evergreen and it might not be as big as some family members would like.

9) Plant your own baby tree for future use: The Yule to be Tree kit gives you a cute baby Scotch Pine that will reach 7-8 feet in six to eight years.

PLUSES: Environmentally friendly. Satisfaction that you grew it yourself.

MINUSES: Requires PATIENCE. If you want one every year, you will need enough yard space to have your own tree farm. Honestly, who wants to watch a tree grow for 8 years in their yard and then chop it down?!!

10) A bonsai or miniature evergreen: Can be purchased at nurseries or through mail-order and should last year round.

PLUSES: Reusable. Easy. Great for small spaces. Environmentally friendly.

MINUSES: Perhaps not good for “non-plant people” since they require year-round care. Small. Can be pricey.

11) Decorate a tree outside: OK. So it won’t be in your living room. But why not decorate a live tree in your yard for you, the neighbors, and all passers-by to enjoy. You could even put on some strung popcorn and peanut butter pine cones for a birds’ Christmas.

PLUSES: Easy. Reusable. Free. Environmentally friendly. Can even help wildlife. Provides enjoyment for others too.

MINUSES: Not in your living room. Not possible if you don’t have a yard with a tree.

11) Forget the tree in your house or yard, and give your Christmas tree money to a charity that plants trees: American Forests plants trees in damaged areas. It costs only $1 per tree ($15.00 minimum) and they send a personalized certificate and holiday greeting if you want to give this as a gift. For example, instead of killing one tree for $30, you could plant 30 new trees for the same amount of money!! The Arbor Day Foundation also does $1 per tree with a certificate ($10.00 minimum).

PLUSES: Increasing the number of trees on this planet. Environmentally friendly. Helping others. No personal care required. Inexpensive. Tax-deductible. Spirit of Christmas?

MINUSES: No tree in your living room.


Other links debating the pros and cons of Christmas trees:

Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Real or Fake Christmas Trees

Second Thoughts-Ghosts of Christmas Trees Past

Peace Signs – Seeking an Environmentally Friendly Christmas Tree

The overwhelming view seems to be that live, potted trees are best. But of course that is not possible for everyone. So read the links above and decide for yourself.

Another Christmas tree link:

Selection and Care of Christmas Trees

DISPOSAL: Rather than junk your tree and fill up the landfills, seek out a Christmas tree composting program. These are available in most areas. Trees are sent through a wood chipper and turned into garden mulch.

Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts here.

Thanks to and photographer sullivan.

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