Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reader Q&A

From: Bob Kirby
Sent: Sunday, November 25, 2007
Subject: Re:irate

I've kept this e-mail all year to let you know what we decided to do this Christmas. We got a pre-lit artificial tree with molded needles. It was set up in 30 minutes. Looks great and we won't have to worry about taking it down because it is losing needles.

Answer: I'm sorry to hear that Bob. I used to have a fake tree, and it shed PVC needles too. Now, I will always buy a natural tree from an American farmer. Good luck.

From: Chuck
Sent: Sunday, November 25, 2007
Subject: Tree Prices

You have finally priced real Christmas trees out of my range. The excuses I get are higher fuel costs and higher transportation costs (aren't they the same thing). Not to mention a 100-150% markup. Guess it is my first year (after 60 years) for an artificial tree.

Answer: Don't let anyone tell you that tree prices are higher; that's a false rumor started by one guy in Pennsylvania. We issued a news release on this subject last Friday. You don't have to give up your tradition. They are too important to give up.

From: larsenworld
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2007
Subject: Question on tree that I just put up - not taking in water

I bought a tree on 11/24/07. The end was cut and placed in a water bucket. It took in water fine overnight in the bucket. I put the stand on yesterday. Before doing this, I cut an extra 1/2" off and drilled a small hole in the base of the tree. This was done to center the tree on the spike in the middle of the stand. The tree is in the stand but resting flat against the botton of the stand. The stand has water in it, yet the tree is not taking in water. Does a tree resting flat against the bottom of the stand inhibit water intake? Should I take the tree out and re-do?

Answer: Perfect, you did everything correctly. The rate of water absorption will fluctuate throughout the time the tree is displayed, so that's natural. Being tight against the bottom of the stand won't inhibit its ability to absorb water molecules into the plant tissue.

From: Kathy Jones
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2007
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

I just purchased a 10.5 foot tree from a local nursery. When I got home my husband made a 1" cut and we put it in warm water right away. It has failed to drink any of the water. So what is the problem?

Answer: The tree typically absorbs the most water in the initial 1 or 2 days of being brought inside as it rehydrates up to 98% capacity. If it took up water initially, then it should be fine, but if it didn't, it's probably just not losing moisture yet. The amount of water taken up will slow down, speed up, all kinds of fluctuations every day for the next 4 weeks. Let the tree itself be the indicator of dryness, not the rate of daily water uptake. Check branches and needles for signs of dryness every 3 to 4 days.

From: michael
Sent: Saturday, November 24, 2007
Subject: Christmas trees

I'm looking to purchase the best Christmas tree available, i.e. the type that lasts the longest and smells the best. P.S. Price is of no concern.

Answer: Sorry Michael. There's no way I can tell you which species smells better. Smell is a subjective sense. Any species can last throughout the holiday season if cared for properly, so don't let that be a determining factor. You really should be looking for what matches your personal preference for needle type, decorating theme, shape and color, etc. Check out the common characteristics page and also the close-up photos and let me know if you have questions about specific ones.

From: Dick Steinbach
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2007
Subject: How to keep a cut tree fresh

I'm born on Christmas. I've had fresh Christmas tree in my home for as long as I can remember. With my four daughters and my enthusiasm, I've bought, cut, decorated and displayed more Christmas Trees than anyone I know. I'm frustrated with your Web site. I'm trying to find the best itemsto add to the water to maximize the freshness o fthe trees. Guess what? No luck.

I make fun of my friends who cave in to buying phony trees. You'd think one of your major points would be to support those who buy fresh trees. I'm disappointed.

By the way, I'm 73 years old this Christmas.

Answer: We have a fairly descriptive list of the best ways to take care of a farm-grown Christmas Tree.

Short answer to your question is ... don't add anything to the tree's water. Nothing has been shown to increase the freshness or longevity of a tree better than plain, fresh tap water.

By the way, I make fun of people who get a phony tree, too.

From: Charlie
Sent: Thursday, November 29, 2007
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

Ok, I'm going to lay it right on the line. I bought a tree on Sunday and now it is Thursday and it's still on my porch and has not received any water from me, except the one day of rain we have had. It's not my intention to be cruel and thoughtless, but I have been. There. I said it. What I want to know is, is there any home for tree at all? Or do I suck it up and start over again with a new tree?

Answer: Don't fret so much Charlie. You don't say where you live, but unless you live in a really hot, dry place and left the tree in the sun, it will be able to rehydrate still.

Go ahead and make a 1/2" straight, horizontal cut off the bottom of the trunk. This opens up the plant tissue, which absorbs water molecules. Put it in water and it will soak it up. Go ahead and leaved it baled/netted, on a porch (out of wind and sun as much as possible) and in a bucket of water if you're still not ready to bring it inside yet.

Fake Tree Myth

Be careful with those fake trees people ... although I realize not many people reading this would have a fake tree. Here's a typical line in a news story about holiday safety:

Getting into the holiday spirit, the CPSC offered these decorating safety tips: Look for a label that says "fire resistant" before buying an artificial tree.

Ummm, there's just one problem with that. Those are just words on a box. There is no test or standard those products must meet before putting those words on a box. Someone should contact the Consumer Products Safety Commission and demand that either they test those products or stop letting their name used like that in news stories. Their rep may take a hit - just yesterday another fake tree caught fire and did $1 million in damage.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reader Q&A

From: Karen
Subject: question about real tree

Can you spray a real tree with the white snow so that you can have a white tree?

Answer: I'm not sure what "white snow" you are referring to. Many retail locations offer a service called flocking, which applies a substance to the tree making it look like it's covered in snow.

From: mbburger
Subject: Where to donate artificial tree?

We have an artificial tree that is 7.5 feet tall and we are looking to donate. We hope you will be able to help us. The tree is in good shape. We have decided that it is just too tall for our house.

Answer: Unfortunately, because it's made of non-biodegradable materials, it can't be recycled. Maybe a church or homeless shelter would want it?

From: Scott Johnson
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas!

I have an idea for a christmas tree spray, but I have a few questions. I need a clear, non-flammable, non-UV protecting liquid to add to my medium before spryaing on the Christmas tree. I'm flirting with the idea of a clear liquid wax. I'm worried about tree lights melting the wax. Does anyone have any ideas? I wish I could go into more detail about the medium I intend to use but I'm hoping to corner a new market of tree design/decor. The medium I intend to use, a dry powder, needs to be placed in a heavy duty suspension liquid that will stick to Christmas Tree needles, without creating a fire or melting hazard, and that also allows light to penetrate into the medium.

Answer: That's a really bad idea Scotty. Almost all trees harvested between now and Christmas are in a state of dormancy, meaning they have stopped conducting photosyntheseis and moving water molecules and nutrients up through their system. When a harvested tree is brought into a home, the statis is loosened, water evaporates out through thte needles through a process called transpiration, and it sucks up water to replace that lost. When the foliage is sealed with a substance, this process is inhibited, meaning it won't draw up more water. Trees that absorb water are the most flame resistant. Please follow the recommended care tips that are based on controlled scientific studies. Studies have shown that anti-transpirant agents result in a tree becoming dried out quicker.

From: Robinlynng
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

I grew up with cedar christmas trees in the rural central Missouri area, but not sure of the species of cedar. I'm hoping to find an artificial cedar tree for Christmas now and CAN NOT anywhere. I've found a few smaller potted trees that might work if I can't find anything else. But the ones we had were usually too large around. So sorta apple or pear-shaped, not triangular. They had a great aroma, sticky and messy to clean up. They were not the hickory cedar or California cedar. Any ideas?

Answer: An artificial cedar tree? Ummm, can't help you there. If you're looking for a farm-grown cedar tree, you can search by species on our main search page.

Tree Prices

First things first - let's squelch a rumor going around today that originated from an AP wire story.


The article quoted one auction house manager moving 40,000 trees from Pennsylvania. Well, 40,000 is a drop in the bucket. All of the growers we have heard from have said the harvest and supply is good, the number of trucking companies and trucking brokers inquiring into hauling trees has gone way up, and many are finding good deals on freight charges. Bottom line is this - if you are price shopping for a tree, then do just that and shop around. You can find a wide range of prices based on a large number of variables.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Real Trees vs. Fake Trees: Round 2

Almost time! Thanksgiving is tomorrow and the tree season is upon us.

We're getting some good e-mail questions and feedback from site visitors, and I'll start posting some of those on Friday. I just wanted to rant a little more about how fake tree people try to misdirect and confuse consumers.

Check out this advertisement:
"In addition to saving our forests ..." Sometimes people don't believe me when I tell them that fake tree sellers purposely lie to consumers. Here's proof. Real Christmas Trees don't come from forests. They're grown on farms, planted by farmers.
Or take this article by someone named Zea Gevert.
This one is so full of holes, mis-truths and opinions stated as fact, it's hard to know where to start.
"An artificial Christmas tree offers many benefits and advantages when compared to a fresh Christmas tree. Some of the advantages are self-evident: owning an artificial tree, easily stored in the house..." Ummm, no, not for many people. For example, I live in a renovated old row house in a neighborhood where most buildings are 150+ years old. Storage space is at a premium. I'm lucky to have space to store my tree stand for my real tree.
"Artificial Christmas trees can last more than a decade if well-maintained and stored appropriately. So the initial investment pays off in that regard..." Hey, that's great math. So you spend $400 on a decent fake tree then use it for 10 years. That's $40 per year average. That's the same amount people spend on average on a real tree. Errr, how exactly does that pay off?
"...artificial trees are infinitely safer than fresh trees; one worries much less about fire safety or electrical problems with an artificial tree..." Here's an example of an opinion stated as fact. The National Fire Protection Association reports only home fires where the first item ignited was a "Christmas tree" but do NOT distinguish between real ones and fake ones. If you don't think fake trees catch on fire, you're wrong. They're plastic - they do. And those words "flame retardant" on boxes ... just words as there is no testing lab or certifying body verifying that.
"And those who suffer from allergies can enjoy a handsome artificial Christmas tree..." Here's an example of a flat-out lie. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, people with sensitive allergies should be equally concerned with fake trees as real trees.
"This kind of flexibility and freedom of choice just isn't available with a natural Christmas tree. With a natural Christmas tree, the shopper's choices are severely limited ..." Another mistruth. Most people don't know that you can get more than 35 different species of farm-grown trees in the U.S. And the real irony is, that EACH AND EVERY TREE IS UNIQUE in its own way. You have WAY MORE choices in sizes, colors, types, shapes, needles, branches and overall appearance with a natural tree.
Oh well. We should try to stay positive and enjoy the season, but it is frustrating sometimes when I read some of the garbage put out by the fake tree people.
BTW - did you know that this week, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) called for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to start testing imported artificial trees for lead?
Nice. Well, Happy Thanksgiving and happy tree hunting if you're going this weekend to get it. Don't forget to submit a video in the YouTube contest. The entries have started being posted. There was a hilarious one posted today.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Real Tree vs. Fake Tree: Round 1

Ok, this week I'll get some ranting out of the way so we can concentrate on positive things the closer we get to the Christmas season.

The rant subject is the "debate" over whether a fake tree is a better eco-choice than a Real Tree. Quite frankly, it befuddles me that there is still a debate at all and that there are consumers out there who still think a manufactured product is better for the environment than a natural product. But, alas, there are.

Part of the problem is the misleading, and sometimes outright false, information put out there. Here's an example: this Sears ad for a fake, plastic tree describes it as a "Just Cut Balsam." What?!? It's not a balsam, and it wasn't just cut. It was manufactured in a factory somewhere, most likely China, then shipped here. You can post a comment to Sears about this silly, deceptive product description right here.

Here's another example: in the November/December issue of Mother Jones magazine, there's a chart comparing real trees and fake trees. The author is Celia Perry. Under the real tree column, in a category called "Dirty Business" it says "produce oxygen, but require tons of pesticides and herbicides." Now that second part is a totally false statement. They do indeed produce oxygen, as all plants do, but do NOT require tons of pesticides. No source is cited, and phone calls to Ms. Perry went unreturned. Mother Jones' tagline says "Smart, Fearless Journalism" .... really? Is that why writeds jsut make stuff up?

I was talking with a reporter last week who said a retro aluminum tree had these words on its packaging: "Better for the environment because no tree has to be cut down." Of course, it comes in a cardboard box ... the hypocrisy is astounding.

Here's the best example - an article from the Hays Daily News in Hays, Kansas. In it, a fake tree seller is touting the lower fuel consumption required to transport fake trees from Asia if you calculate that over 15 years of using the same tree. Uh, relaly? That doesn't take into account the fuel required to ship raw materials such as plastic and metal to the factory in the first place. Nor does it take into account the energy consumed by the factory itself. Nor does it take into account the fuel consumed to distribute the product from shipping ports to retail outlets throughout the United States. Recently a Christmas Tree farmer calculated fuel use to grow his trees. This is a farm in the Deep South, where mowing is probably required more than other places. He uses 600 gallons of fuel per year (both diesel and gasoline) to grow 14,000 trees. That equates to 5.5 ounces of fuel per tree per year. How many ounces of petroleum is used to make the plastic needles of one fake tree?

Plastic is a product we all sue, but many believe will need to be replaced soon. A recent article in Spirit Magazine said the U.S. uses 2 million barrels of oil every day to make plastic. That represents about 10% of the nation's total consumption. I found that interesting.

Well, to combat some of the misleading, and sometimes outright false, information that consumers are exposed to, we put together a simple comparison chart. You can access it from the front page of our Web site. I'm confident that sooner, rather than later, consumers will know the truth and know that the eco-friendly choice in Christmas Trees is a renewable, recyclable Real Tree grown on a farm.