Gardener's Grapevine 2015.11.18

It always seems as if I begin this article with “this past weekend,” but in my life the only interesting things happen on the weekend. I can't talk about my job as the privacy laws don’t allow it and most of it isn’t that interesting. Plus, I don’t garden at work other than to water the cactus my doctor frequently forgets about.

​We brought the artificial tree up from the basement this week and put it together. No, it’s not decorated. It’s sitting in the foyer in all it’s stinky glory—stinky because it smells like the basement. It will not be stored down there again. My grandson, Max, is in awe of it. He looks up at all eight feet of it and says “high…high tree,” because he can’t say “tall.”

We have to get the house ready for Christmas before my surgery in December. This tree got a good dousing of evergreen room spray, which seems to have helped. We used to put up two live trees until guilt and the rising cost made us cave to one live and one looks-live-but-isn’t tree. I felt guilty that I was killing something beautiful not once, but twice, just for our enjoyment. The living room tree is still live—guilt only goes so far.

​Art and I went to Frankenmuth this past weekend to Christmas shop. No trip up there is complete without a stop at Bronner’s Christmas Store. While there I wandered back to their tree and evergreen section. As with everything they do, their tree section was virtually an indoor forest. I think you could get lost in there easily.

I wanted some plastic cardinals for outside, but no dice. Actually there were no outdoor birds at all. I’m sure when I asked the clerk for them and she replied ”We don’t have any,” my mouth was likely hanging open. I wanted to say, “But you have everything.” Instead I thanked her and set off to find Art in a world of Santas and nativities. Sort of a commercial Christmas hell, if you will.

All this fake evergreen started me thinking about the real stuff. The only pine tree on our property is a blue spruce our son brought home from school on Arbor Day as a twig. It is now about three feet tall and has never needed pruning—thank the heavens because it’s really pokey.

I wondered when it is okay to prune evergreens. Most deciduous trees get trimmed in winter, and if they are fruit bearing it is a necessity. So I went to my library of gardening books and checked with Google. What I came up with is that conifers require pruning in the spring. It involves pinching of the candle. The candle is the new growth that shoots from each branch. The candle is not wood yet, but rather a soft growth sprout. It is important not to remove the entire candle.

What I found in my reading is that most conifers do not require pruning. They are pruned because we want them to conform to a certain shape. If you choose to prune yours, don’t remove all the candles as it can stop growth on that branch. I had the idea that if I could prune an evergreen I could spread it under the stinky tree and help it defunk. Guess we use room spray and call it good.

I think that the people who make roping, wreaths and grave blankets must cut down whole trees to use. Our family normally gets a Frasier fir for our living room tree. We cut it ourselves and it stays fresh for months. It would make sense that a fresh cut tree would be used for commercial products containing real evergreen.

I love the smell when evergreen is in the house. Mix that with fresh baked cookies and it must be the holidays!