Christmas Trees 101
Your Guide to Getting it Right
Posted: December 05, 2018 by Krissy Stewart
Nothing says festive like a full, deep green, illuminated Christmas tree. But where are the best places to find them? What type of tree works best? And how do you properly care for it? Read on for answers to all these queries and more!
Where to Find Your Tree
If you are looking to purchase your pre-cut Christmas tree, it is almost impossible to drive through town without seeing a retail location. Check out local home improvement stores, hardware stores, big box locations, and grocery stores for parking lots full of pre-cut trees. Prices range can start around $40 and can go well over one hundred dollars, based on the type and height of your tree.
There are also a few locations where you can cut your own tree without venturing into the wilderness. Rocky Creek Farms has a U-Cut Christmas tree program (by appointment only) featuring Blue Spruce, Western White Pines, and a few others starting at $10/foot.
If you're feeling especially adventurous, purchase a tree permit for just $5 and venture into the surrounding National Forests. Permit-holders can cut a tree almost anywhere on the Custer Gallatin National Forest, which stretches from West Yellowstone to South Dakota. The permits are also valid on the other national forests in Montana. For the full news release on tree permits, click here.
Choosing the Tree for You
There are hundreds of varieties of trees that can be used during the holidays. Below is a list of the most popular types readily available* in Montana:
Scotch Pine – Perfect conical shape, medium to long needled, will hold heavy ornaments, good sturdy branching, dyed.
White Pine – Soft, long-needled, dyed, weak branching so no heavy ornaments, pretty, hold up well unless in the sun.
Balsam Fir – The most fragrant, traditional shape.
Frasier Fir – Perfect layered shape for holding ornaments, short needled, fragrant, holds needles well.
Grand Fir – Bright green, tiered flat needles.
Douglas Fir – Open branches, don’t look as sheared as others, very natural
Norway Pine – Long needles, holds needles well.
Alpine Fir – From high elevations in the surrounding forests, very tiered branching, holds needles very well, most are narrow.
Lodgepole Pine – More open like other native trees- sometimes they will have cones still on them, Western look.
Colorado Spruce – Very full but have sharp needles. Layered.
*Info from Cashman Nursery
Christmas Tree Care & Safety
Once you've chosen the tree that's right for you, there are a few tips to follow to make sure it stays full and green all season long. Before bringing your tree in and placing it on the stand, make a fresh cut. Cut about 1 inch off of the bottom of the trunk to allow for maximum moisture absorption. Next, you will want to water the tree right away. Make sure your stand is large enough to allow for approximately 1 gallon of water. Your tree will absorb the most water in the first few days, so it is imperative that you check the water levels daily. Keeping your tree properly watered will help with the loss of needles and keep the green color as long as possible.
In terms of safety, it is important to keep your tree away from heat sources like heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, televisions, and computers. These can speed up evaporation and dry your tree out, making it much more likely to lose needles, or worse, catch on fire. Make sure to test all electric lights and ornaments before placing them on your tree. If they are not functioning properly, don't use them. And finally, be sure not to overload electrical outlets with too many plugs from lights and decorations.
When the holiday is over, its time to recycle your tree. Ensure that all tinsel and garland is taken off before removing the tree from your house. As a courtesy service, the City of Bozeman Forestry Division sets up several drop-off sites for residents to recycle their Christmas trees after the holidays. Their crew transports a chipper to each site to process the trees into compostable material which will be used at a later date for organic cover at the Logan Landfill. Only compostable material can be used, so trees must be free of any decorations, hardware, lights, etc. It is best to leave the trees in whole pieces as it is easier for personnel to handle. Wreaths and garlands are not accepted because they are held together with wire or twine and can damage equipment.
For a list of tree recycling sites in your Montana town, click here.