Picking and preserving the perfect pine for Christmas

Still in the market for a holiday tree? Not to worry, two Cornell University experts share their tips and tricks to pick and preserve the perfect pine tree. 

Brian Eshenaur is a plant pathologist, a certified New York State nursery professional and a Western New York-based educator with NYS IPM. Elizabeth Lamb has a Ph.D. in plant breeding and is a senior extension associate with the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York State Integrated Pest Management program. 

Eshenaur says:

“Despite the subzero temperatures that occurred early in the year and some subsequent winter burn on certain trees, the 2014 growing season was a good one for New York Christmas tree growers.  Moderate summer temperatures and regular rainfall helped the trees at Christmas tree farms put on a healthy layer of growth.

“The mix of trees being grown and available to consumers continues to evolve.  We notice more Fraser firs than ever that are available this year and a nice mix of other firs and in some locations even spruce trees as well.

“The best way to preserve the tree’s freshness is to keep plenty of fresh water in the tree stand. If possible, when you bring it home make a new cut from the bottom of the trunk if you think the tree has spent some time on the tree lot and the cut stump looks weathered and dirty. That way you’re sure to have open ‘pipework’ to keep the water flowing to the needles.”  

Lamb says:

“The fresher the tree the better, which is a good reason to buy local. The branches should be springy and smell good. A few loose needles aren’t a problem but you shouldn’t get handfuls when you brush the branches.” 

Tips for selecting the best Christmas tree: 

  • Firs and pines have the best needle retention and can last for a month or more indoors. However if buying a spruce tree, plan to have it in the house for just a week to 10 days.
  • Look for a tree with a good solid-green color. Needle yellowing or a slight brown speckled color could indicate there was a pest problem and could lead to early needle drop.
  • Don’t be afraid to handle and bend the branches and shoots. Green needles should not come off in your hands. Also, the shoots should be flexible. Avoid a tree if the needles are shed or if the shoots crack or snap with handling.
  • Christmas trees should smell good. If there isn’t much fragrance when you flex the needles, it may mean that the tree was cut too long ago.
  • If possible, make a fresh cut on the bottom so the tree’s vascular tissue (pipe work) is not plugged and so the tree can easily take up water. Then, if you’re not bringing it into the house right away, get the tree in a bucket of water outside.
  • Once your tree gets moved to inside the house, don’t locate it next to a radiator or furnace vent. And always remember to keep water in the tree stand topped off, so it never goes below the bottom of the trunk.

 

County Cooperative Extension offices often have lists of local Christmas tree growers. You can also check the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York website at http://www.christmastreesny.org/.

 

For interviews contact:
Melissa Osgood
office: 607-255-2059
cell: 716-860-0587
mmo59@cornell.edu

 

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.

 

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