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Living Christmas Trees Make Growing Memories

By Norman Winter

MSU Horticulturist
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center

Christmas is a special time for making memories. Not all the memories come from gifts, although the slippers that look like stuffed hens from the farm certainly make a lasting impression.

Christmas trees have a way of making a lasting memory just like the special ornaments that adorn them. Other than using a camera, one way to capture and make that Christmas memory last is with a living Christmas tree.

Here is how it works. Go to your nursery or garden center and pick a plant you need in the landscape. Trees like Leyland cypress and Eastern red cedar make great living Christmas trees and have the evergreen fragrance, too. Trees like the blue-gray Arizona cypress and the green and yellow Chamaecyparis cripsii look flocked, but they do it naturally.

Other good choices are magnolias like the Little Gem and D.D. Blanchard which can be decorated using silk magnolia blossoms. Hollies like Festive, Little Red, Cardinal, Robin, Mary Nell and Nellie R. Stevens may prove to be a little prickly when placing ornaments, but the look is truly outstanding. The shiny, metallic garland and lights look great on hollies and magnolias as they give the shiny leaves an extra reflection.

After you have chosen your living tree and have it home, water it thoroughly, letting the water run freely through the drain holes. Then lightly tie a trash bag around the container to hold in moisture. Tie the bag loosely around the lower trunk of the tree.

Place the tree in the desired location in your home. I know you are thinking the trash bag is going to look ugly with all of the presents around. It would, so go to your favorite fabric store and get a nice piece of shiny gold, silver or red fabric and drape it over the exposed trash bag. This actually makes it look like another large present under the tree.

The trash bag helps prevent moisture loss by soil evaporation and helps you maintain a healthy tree until you can plant it outside in about two to three weeks. Keep your living Christmas tree in the house less than three weeks for optimum success in the landscape.

The special memory part comes in as you watch these living trees grow in the landscape. You'll remember how old your children were when the tree was planted and you can watch the tree grow as they grow.

Doing this each year gives you a living ledger or diary of memorable holidays with the family. It also does another important thing. So many gardeners, myself included, are hesitant to drop the extra money on specimen-size plants for the landscape.

On the other hand, many of us will go purchase a $75 northern grown fir that will be discarded after the season. These specimen-size plants make an immediate impact in the landscape. They give you Christmas enjoyment, landscape pleasure and fond memories.

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Released: Dec. 13, 1999
Contact: Norman Winter, (601) 857-2284

Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.

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