It’s that time of year again. It’s time to choose between the taking the tree out of the box and setting it up, heading to the nursery or the big box store for a tree, or trekking to the nearest Christmas Tree Farm and picking out your fresh tree and watching the workers there cut, shake and wrap it for you.
There’s nothing quite like the experience of going to the tree farm and making memories with kids and grandkids as you walk the rows and rows of trees to pick the perfect one.
In Kansas, if you take the tree farm route, you have no fewer than 34 farms to choose from that are members of the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association — a real, if small, segment of Kansas agriculture. Chances are, on most of those farms, your most likely choice is going to be a pine — probably a Scotch pine, although Virginia pines, white pines, Austrian pines and some firs are also grown in Kansas.
To help you find a tree farm near you, KCTGA has an interactive map that you can scroll over and see the name, address and phone number of a farm near you pop up. You will find that most of the tree farms are in a cluster around the Kansas City area in northeast Kansas or around Wichita in south-central Kansas. The most-western farm in the state is Delp Farm at Stafford.
The growers’ association offers these tips to help you select the tree that will work best your home.
1. Measure carefully. Measure the distance from floor to ceiling in the spot where you want to place the tree. Be sure to account for how much your tree stand will raise it off the floor and examine your tree topper to see how much height it adds to the top of the tree.
Take into consideration the height of your tree top ornament and the height your tree stand raises the tree off the floor. If you measure right in the first place, you won’t have to prune and cut to make it fit when putting it up.
2. Consider your ornaments. Some trees have more open foliage, stiffer branches or longer needles. If you have a lot of heavy ornaments, you may want to select a tree known for strong branches, such as a Scotch or Austrian pine or a fir. If your ornaments are lighter and you want to highlight the foliage of the tree itself, you might like a white pine.
3. Do you have allergies? Some trees have a much stronger smell than others. If you have no allergies and love that evergreen smell, you may want a Virginia pine, which has a rich pine aroma. If you have allergies and want a lighter scent, a white pine might be a better choice.
4. Measure again. Measure your selection in the field before you have your tree cut. Trees look much smaller in the field outdoors than they do inside your house. Measure the height and the circumference of the tree.
5. Don’t demand perfection. Of course, you want the “perfect” tree for your house. But keep in mind that may be the one with a flat side to fit closer to the wall or even two flatter sides to snug right in the corner.
6. Freshness matters. The freshest tree you can buy is the one you watch being cut. If you buy from a retailer, ask where your tree came from and when it was cut. A fresh Christmas tree has soft, pliable needles that do not snap when they are bent.
7. Shed needles are not necessarily bad. All evergreens shed needles from the inner branches and they often lodge in the interior of the tree. That doesn’t mean the tree is dried out. Many tree farms and other retailers will supply a shaking service to remove all the loose, dead needles before you take your tree home.
8. Netting can be good. Consider asking your grower or retailer to wrap your tree in netting. That makes it easier to transport and maneuver through doorways and hallways to the spot where you want it to sit.
9. Save your notes. If, like most people, you put up your tree in the same spot year after year, why go through all that measuring every year? Keep a Christmas tree notebook that includes the height and width of your spot, as well as your likes and dislikes from other years. Store the notes in your ornament box and take it out for review when you are ready to go tree shopping.
10. Love your choice. Once your tree is up and decorated, enjoy it. Don’t obsess on what you wish you’d done different. Put that in your notebook for next year. Let yourself love your tree and the season.
Why fresh and not ‘reusable’?
Almost everybody these days wants to be earth-friendly and sustainable. Does that mean you are being kinder to the earth by selecting an artificial tree rather than “cutting down” a “living” tree every year?
That’s a question that worries a lot of people who are just trying to do the right thing.
Here are some facts to set the record straight on real vs. artificial Christmas trees:
Cutting Christmas trees does not destroy the forest. Christmas trees are a legitimate farming operation. It takes between 6 and 10 years for a tree to grow to the ideal height for a Christmas tree. Those growing trees are eating up carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen every day. Growers plant a new tree for every one they harvest (and sometimes more if they are trying to establish and grow a nursery). Christmas trees are not part of the “forest.” They are a crop that can be grown in areas and soils where conventional crops don’t flourish.
Artificial trees are not “environmentally friendly.” In fact, they are the opposite. They are made from petroleum products. They don’t add oxygen to the atmosphere and their manufacture does cause the release of toxic chemicals.
Artificial trees can be better if you have allergies. That depends on what you are allergic to. For some sufferers, the scent of evergreens seems to trigger allergies. But it is often mold or dust that is the trigger, and your “stored” tree may have a lot more dust than a fresh one.
Both trees have potential fire hazards. It is generally not true that fresh trees are a greater fire hazard than artificial trees. Fresh trees that are kept hydrated are not highly flammable. But dusty artificial trees can build up a very flammable coating.
The big thing to keep in mind, however, is that your tree — real or fake — is less likely to start a fire than the scented candle you have on the coffee table.
Tree cutting inspires memories. Taking the kids or grandkids to the tree farm, riding the wagon out in the field and running through the rows in search of “the” tree creates smiles many, many years after the experience. It may take an afternoon of time in a busy season, but those minutes and hours are captured forever in your “happy brain” section. Will the memory of whatever else you had to do with the time you’ll never get back equal that?