November 2014 Archives

Christmas Tree Hunting 101


Having a Christmas tree is a holiday tradition. Before you head out this season in search of the perfect tree for your family, here are the basics on the various types available. Happy tree hunting!

Balsam Fir

Balsam Firs have needles ¾-1 ½ inch long, and have flat, long-lasting needles that are rounded at the tip. They are a nice, dark green with a silvery cast. People enjoy their dark-green appearance, long-lasting needles and shape. They also retain their pleasing fragrance.

Douglas Fir

Douglas Firs also have a good fragrance. They range from blueish to dark green in color, with 1-1 ½ inch needles that are soft to the touch and radiate out through the branches. Douglas fir needles give off one of the best aromas when crushed. This is a popular type of Christmas tree used in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and Guam.

Fraser Fir

Fraser Firs have dark green, flattened needles that are usually ½-1 inch long. The tree has good needle retention; a nice scent; and strong, pyramid-shaped branches, which turn upward.

Grand Fir

Grand Firs have needles that are 1-1 ½ inch long with glossy, dark green tops and two highly visible, white lines of stomata on the undersides. When the needles are crushed, they give off a citrus smell.

Leland Cypress

A hybrid of Monterey Cypress and Alaskan Cedar, this is one of the most sought-after Christmas trees in the southeastern United States. Its foliage is a dark green to gray color with upright branches and a feathery appearance. Because of its light scent, many people with allergies prefer it to other types of Christmas trees.

Noble Fir

Noble Firs have 4-sided needles that are over 1 inch long; they are bluish green but appear silver because of two white rows of stomata on the underside and one or two rows on the upper surface. The tree's short, stiff branches are great for heavier ornaments, making it a popular Christmas tree in the Pacific Northwest. It is also used to make wreaths, door swags, and garland.

White Fir

White Firs, or Concolor Firs, have blue-green needles that are ½-1 ½ inches long. The needles are nicely shaped and give off an aroma of citrus. White fir is an excellent ornamental tree and is widely planted in the eastern United States and Canada.

Afghan Pine

Mostly grown in Texas, these trees have soft, short needles with sturdy branches. The Afghan Pine also boasts an open appearance, mild fragrance, and long indoor lifespan.

Scotch Pines

Introduced in the United States by European settlers, Scotch Pines are the most common Christmas tree. Their branches as well as their dark green needles are stiff, and the latter are around 1 inch long. This tree and its characteristic scent can last about four weeks. Its needles will stay on even when dry and its open structure leaves plenty of room for ornaments.

Virginia Pine

These have dark green needles that are 1 ½-3 inches long in twisted pairs. Their strong branches enable them to hold heavy ornaments. The aromatic scent of the Virginia Pine makes it a very popular Southern Christmas tree.

White Pine

The largest pine in the U.S. and native to Michigan and Maine, the white pine has little or no fragrance. Its blue-green needles are around 2-5 inches long and come in bundles that give the tree a full appearance. Its slender branches support fewer and smaller decorations compared with Scotch Pines.

Carolina Sapphire

This tree has a steely blue color; dense, lacy foliage with tiny yellow flowers; and an aroma that is a cross between lemon and mint. It's a popular tree in the South.

Black Hills Spruce

The Black Hills Spruce is very dense and pyramidal looking. It has green to blue-green needles, which are about ½-¾ inch long. The branches are stiff and will hold many ornaments. The needles are prickly, though, and may not be suitable for families with young children.

Blue Spruce

The Blue Spruce is the official state tree of Colorado and Utah. Due to its stiff needles, pyramidal shape, and cone-shaped crown, it's very popular as a Christmas tree or an ornamental. Its needles are usually a dull bluish gray to silvery blue but sometimes silvery white. They emit a resinous odor when crushed and are around ¾-1 ½ inch long.

White Spruce

This medium-sized conifer is popular for its shape and color in the United States and Canada. It is the state tree of South Dakota. Needles are usually ½ to ¾ inch long, blunt at the tip, and green to bluish green in color. Needles are four-sided and grow from short, twig-like structures on the stem. When the needles are crushed, they give off an unpleasant odor.

Poinsettia Care

By Mary Frucelli


Every winter season I enjoy seeing the Poinsettias in stores. Their vivid colors brighten our homes in the cold weather. They are one of the few winter plants you can purchase this time of the year. Poinsettias are now available in many shades of red, pink, white and variegated varieties. It is hard to decide which I like best, but I usually choose the traditional red. The closer to December, most stores begin to discount their price for Poinsettias and this is the time I usually buy them. Poinsettias are a beautiful decoration for your home and are a wonderful gift for friends and family.

Every year I try to keep growing my Poinsettias throughout the year. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not. When I bring my Poinsettia home, I keep it in a bright south or east facing window. Because my house is so dry this time of the year, I water it well a couple times a week. You can easily tell when your plant needs water because the leaves will hang. Watering the plant thoroughly will bring it right back to life. Using a general purpose liquid fertilizer once every few weeks also benefits your plant.

Tips for picking a healthy Poinsettia plant:

  • Choose a plant with dark green leaves with no signs of damage or curling.
  • Look for bright colored flowers with no insects.

Care for your Poinsettia plant includes:

  • Keep your Poinsettia near a window that gets bright direct or indirect light.
  • Remove the decorative plastic or foil wrap from around the pot to increase air circulation.
  • Keep the plant away from drafts.
  • Check the soil and water only when it feels dry. Too much water can promote root rot. When you do water, do it until the plant is thoroughly wet.
  • Fertilize every two to four weeks.

Care after December includes:

  • Spring care includes trimming the old flower stems back to 6 inches, leaving a few leaves on the stem. This should promote plant growth.
  • Summer care includes repotting in a larger pot if the plant appears too small for its pot.
  • If summer temperatures are above 50 degrees, the Poinsettia can be placed outside. Remember Poinsettias are tropical plants and they do need light and warmth.
  • If your Poinsettia is outdoors, it may need to be watered more often.
  • In the fall, you need to bring your Poinsettia indoors well before the first frost. Keep the plant near a bright sunny window in the day, and it should be in a dark area every night.
  • If the Poinsettia is kept in a temperature between 60-70 degrees consistently, it should flower by the end of December.
  • Remember to keep fertilizing the plant every two to four weeks.

Poinsettias are inexpensive and beautiful plants. If you are careful and can continue to grow your plant all year long, you will be rewarded with wonderful color the following winter season.

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