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Gardening: Search for the perfect fir at local tree farms

Green Bluff has a number of tree farms that let customers choose and cut their own tree. (The Spokesman-Review)
Green Bluff has a number of tree farms that let customers choose and cut their own tree. (The Spokesman-Review)

Recent snow and cold temperatures have kicked off the Great Tree Hunt for Christmas with style.

I will admit up front that the idea of a fake Christmas tree just doesn’t ring true for me. There is no challenge or sense of adventure in pulling a box out of the attic. I’d rather go tree hunting and enjoy the smell of fresh evergreens in the house. Yes it can get messy but that’s what vacuum cleaners are for.

Finding the right tree can be an adventure for the whole family. The kind of adventures that make lasting memories for the kids. I grew up in Mason County, the Christmas Tree Capital of the World, and we always went up to the Christmas tree sorting yards to watch them pack trees into railroad cars that were bound for all over the country.

While its easy to go to one of the many tree lots that have sprung up after Thanksgiving, going to cut your own is a nice Saturday adventure. There are a number of cut-your-own farms on Green Bluff, at the Hutton Settlement and elsewhere in the county. The Northeast Washington State Christmas Tree Farms Association maintains a website with a county-by-county list of farms. Check out www.pickyourownchristmas tree.org/WAxmaseast.php.

Once on the farm, picking the right tree means walking through the trees checking out candidates. Dress accordingly: warm boots, coats, hats and gloves for everyone. The kids are going to think every tree is the perfect one so you should prepare them with some guidelines of what is actually practical – the top priority being a tree that will actually fit your space.

Some of the more popular trees that are likely to be available include grand fir with its shiny dark green needles on flat, slightly drooping branches. Fraser firs will have stiff branches with upturned green needles. Because noble firs don’t grow well in our climate, the Fraser fir is a good alternate choice if you like that style of tree. Concolor or white firs have beautiful gray-green needles that are held upright on the branch. It might even have a few cones on it for added decoration. Lastly is my favorite, the Douglas fir with its soft, fine green needles and fine branching that leaves lots of room for ornaments. Follow the farm’s instructions on how to properly cut the tree.

Once you get the tree home, trim an inch off the trunk and immediately place it in a bucket of water until you are ready to bring it in the house. When you are ready, thump the butt of the tree on the ground several times to shake out any loose needles and debris. Install it in the tree stand and fill the reservoir with water. The tree will drink quite a bit of water in the first few days in the house so check it a couple of times a day to keep the tree hydrated. Remove the tree when the needles start falling.

Pat Munts is co-author, with Susan Mulvihill, of the “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Munts can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.


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