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Select An Ideal Tree For Christmas Home
By Laura Martin
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When the holiday scents of cinnamon, peppermint and fresh cookies fill the home, friends and families gather around the Christmas tree as one of the seasonal traditions.
Displaying a real Christmas tree is a traditional holiday practice in many homes.
Dr. Steve Dicke, a forestry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the enjoyment of the family cutting a tree and decorating it at home every year is part of a great Christmas tradition.
"Most real Christmas trees have a scent that reminds people of Christmas," he said. "A tree cut from a grower's farm is usually a better tree because it is fresh." Pre-cut trees can also be bought at stores and seasonal tree lots.
Mississippi growers produce a wide variety of trees to satisfy customers. Dicke said the four most popular types of trees available in Mississippi are Virginia Pine, Leyland Cypress, Arizona Cypress and Eastern Red Cedar.
Norman Winter, an Extension horticulturist, recommended choosing the right tree for your home and family by measuring the corner or area where the tree will be placed. Make an imaginary box to get an idea of the area's square footage."
Trees vary in color, appearance and odor. The Virginia Pine is dark green, has a strong pine scent and long needles. The Arizona Cypress has an orange-mint scent and a blue-green color. The Eastern Red Cedar has an outstanding aroma, a green color and sticky needles. Leyland Cypress has no odor, dark green foliage and a long house life.
"The Leyland Cypress makes an excellent tree," Dicke said. "Its advantages are no aroma which avoids most allergies, an attractive dark green color and the best longevity of most trees. It will last at least a month in your house with water. It also won't shed as bad as a cedar or pine."
The normal tree season starts the Friday after Thanksgiving and goes until Dec. 18, Dicke said. Most growers have run out before the end of the season. When buying a tree from a lot, be sure to re-cut about an inch off the bottom so that the tree will start taking water and last longer.
Buying a container-grown tree that has all the roots is one way to enjoy Christmas year around. Most garden centers and tree farms sell container-grown trees.
"Buy a Cypress, Holly or Magnolia tree, decorate it, then take it outside and plant it in your yard," Winter said.
Dr. Frances Graham, Extension housing specialist, said homeowners should also be aware of safety precautions for the home with a real tree.
"Be careful not place the tree near a heat source, especially open flame," Graham said. "Set it near an electrical outlet so there doesn't have to be any extension cords. Also, put the tree where you can water it daily to prevent it from drying out and becoming a fire source. Be aware that pets, especially cats, become fascinated with the tree. They may want to climb up and then turn it over."
"Tree lights shouldn't touch any of the decorations," she said. "Before putting lights on the tree, check carefully for broken wires that can be a fire source. Fresh greenery used in other decorations should not be allowed to dry up."
When Christmas is over and the time comes to take the tree outside, remember that trees are biodegradable. Use the foliage as a mulch in the garden and burn the stem in the fireplace. Living trees with roots still attached can be re-planted outside following the holiday.