Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Reader Q&A

From: Mary
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

How do I keep my tree fresh?

I bought a tree yesterday Nov. 26th at Armstrong Nursery ($99 deal includes a 5ft 6" Noble Tree, 6 foot garland, 1 (24) inch wreath, and 4 - Poinsettias). Good Yes?! I think so. The Tree is inside in water. What else can I do to keep it fresh? It has lost needles but lets face it you would too if someone cut you down from your cozy perch. I know this sounds dumb but what else can I do, ADD SUGAR, OR PEROXIDE, BLEACH, PLANT FOOD. NOTHING? RIGHT? I JUST HOPE IT LAST TIL CHRISTMAS .............Thanks Tree Growers

Answer: I can't tell you if that's a good deal or not. I know places where that kind of package would cost more and places it would cost less. Actually, I have no idea how much 4 poinsettias would cost.

You've done everything right. As long as they made a fresh cut for you at the lot and you got it in water within about 4 hours, never let the water level drop below the cut surface of the stump. It will continue to take up water 4-6 weeks. No need to add anything to the water. Read the complete care tips on our website @

From: Todd
Sent: Friday, December 01, 2006
Subject: About trimming the tree top

My wife and I have always heard that you absolutely should not cut or trim the top of the tree (i.e. where you'd put the star) because the tree will die faster and dry out very quickly.

Is this true, or is trimming the top the same as cutting any other branch?

Answer: That one's an urban myth, or at least a misunderstanding. A tree loses moisture through a process called transpiration. This means water molecules evaporate into the air through the foliage (needles). Snipping off the leader (top center stem) won't speed up moisture loss.

From: Sue
Sent: Sunday, December 03, 2006
Subject: Blog Talk Idea

I purchased a 11 ft. real Christmas tree. The stump was so big this year we had to actually cut and carve out the tree stump in order for it to fit in our tree stand. The guy at the nursery that was selling the trees told us to do that. After the tree was up I filled the stand with warm water and added some of the tree preservative that I purchased at the nursery. I figured the tree would drink up the water fast since the carved bottom was all open and freshly cut. The next day I checked the water and the tree hardly drank any water. It has been a week and I still do not need to add water. I have not decorated the tree yet because I use a lot of lights (which dries out the tree). I figured I'd wait until two weeks before. Anyway, I am very concerned about the tree not drinking much water. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Well, you've got several things here to go over.

First, the good news. Your fear of lights drying out the tree are unfounded. Unless they are very old lights, modern mini lights emit very little heat, certainly not enough to speed up moisture loss from the tree.

Now, the bad news. Carving, trimming, cutting the stump to get it to fit into a stand is a bad idea. I wish the person who told you that wouldn't have. That can actually inhibit the tree's ability to move water up the stem.

Here's a brief explanation of the plant physiology. A tree moves water molecules up the stem through tissue in the cambium layer, just below the bark. That's why that part of the tree's trunk is softer and wetter than the denser wood in the middle. It works much like a siphon, as water molecules evaporate out of the foliage, more is drawn up from the trunk. When this part of the trunk is cut and/or removed, it inhibits the ability to draw water. In addition, as that part of the trunk is exposed to air, the air can stop the siphon action. Trimming off outer parts of the trunk exposes the cambium layer to air quicker than a flat, horizontal cut at the bottom.

My recommendation would be to make a clean, fresh cut from the bottom, above any of the trimmed off parts. I would also recommend investing in a new tree stand made for bigger trees. I put some links and descriptions of some stands made for large trees on this blog entry:

From: Angela
Sent: Monday, December 04, 2006
Subject: FAQ Addition

I watered my new tree last night and today my house smells. Is it the stagnant water?? What can I do to make the smell go away? It is a musty smell.

Answer: Well, not knowing more details, it could be any number of things. Where was the stand stored last year? Was it cleaned out before? Was the skirt stored in a damp area (like a basement)? Sometimes things stored in basements can have that musty smell. I know my basement is like that because it's a renovated 150 year old building with original limestone foundation.

However, ruling those types of things out, if the tree was wet before bringing inside...from snow, rain...particularly if it's a dense tree with lots of branches and needles, it may still be damp. I would just give it time to dry out once opened up. Crush a few needles to release the evergreen aroma.