KEEPING IT REAL
Would you like to decorate a real Christmas tree and increase your property values at the same time? Consider using a balled-and-burlapped evergreen (or citrus, for those of you in more tropical areas) as your living Christmas tree.
The living Christmas tree is an underutilized way of making plant material multitask. Although there are some challenges to using a live tree, the economy of using a live tree which is then placed into the landscape make it worth your effort.
A major hurdle will be the realization that a balled-and-burlapped tree is HEAVY! For the sake of your back, you’ll want to choose a relatively small tree, probably no more than 5 feet in height. The rootball of an evergreen or citrus tree this size may be 3 feet in circumference; remember, you’re buying tree, roots, and dirt as well.
It’s important to dig your planting hole early in the season. After all, at Christmastime there is a good chance the ground will be thoroughly frozen, and you’ll be trying to backfill your planting hole with rock-solid soil. So in October or November, dig a good, deep planting hole, and fill the hole with fallen leaves or woodchip mulch. Pile the soil in a location that is convenient, but is unlikely to freeze (garage, toolshed, etc.)
Your tree will need water, just like any other house plant. How do you maintain a plant that is 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide? Use a children’s wading pool, or the hard rubber liner for an outdoor water feature (these can be purchased at places such as PetsMart or hardware stores such as Lowe’s.) Keep just the bottom of the rootball submerged – you don’t want to drown the tree.
For those of us in the northern states, it’s best to keep the tree in an unheated garage until the “big day”. You really don’t want to have your tree break dormancy and start to develop tender growth at this time, since you will ultimately be planting it outside.
Soon after the holidays, you’ll need to plant your tree. Remember to cut the burlap loose and spread the roots out as much as possible, then backfill with the soil you removed earlier. Once that soil freezes, mulch the tree. If winters are particularly severe where you are or your tree is located on either the north or west side of your property, you may want to offer it some protection from the wind. Shield the tree by creating a loose tent or canopy for the tree with the burlap you’ve removed from the rootball.
As you and your family watch your tree grow and become part of the landscape, the memory of “Christmas past” will remain alive for generations.