Friday, December 19, 2008

More tree questions - including odors

From: Elpisnrev
Sent: Friday, December 19, 2008 7:26 AM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas
Christmas tree water starting to smell foul:

I see that I am not the only person who has a problem with a foul smell from the water after a week or so. It's rather pungent, to the point where I have looked to see if someone has thrown up behind my sofa cushions.....
I have noticed that this is the same smell from pine sawdust that has gotten wet and been covered for a small amount of time. I think it's just the natural bacteria in the tree fiber that gets into the water, that is kept at room temperature and VIOLA! have a christmas petri dish.

I cleaned out the water with a turkey baster, put in a smaller amount of fresh water (tree doesn't seem to absorb as much now) and added a little peppermint oil. I should have gotten pine oil though....

That has worked for the last week.

Happy Holidays,


Siple, MI

Hello Vernon.

You know, it's an interesting phenomenon, how I get that question each year. I'm still convinced it's not that common, but I guess when it happens, it's something that moves people to take action and they do some internet searching and once they find our site, write in a question about it. I've never personally experienced it, so I can't completely get a handle on it. I know you didn't put anything in your tree's water, but I know that's a very common culprit once people explain in an email that they put stuff in their water. One time -- I'm not making this up -- a lady told me she had taken a whole tree feeding spike, the kind you push into the ground near a tree to release nitrogen in the soil around it's roots, and crushed it up and put in the tree stand with the water. Well, needless to say, her water stink, stank, stunk.

I also had a lady write to say that her tree smelled like fish. ???? She thought at first it was because she was pregnant, but then her husband said he smelled it too and since he's not pregnant, that couldn't be the cause.

You may have a point about naturally occurring bacteria, but I would think if that was the case it would be more common. If it was more common, I wouldn't think 32 million families would enjoy a farm-grown tree each year.

I dunno I said, I've never experienced a foul smell coming from any Christmas tree I've ever had, so I can't quite put my finger on it. Interesting idea on the peppermint oil. I think you can also put a little baking soda in the water if it really does smell bad. It will neutralize odor (just like the box in the fridge does) and as a base, it won't harm the plant tissue of the tree. One thing I always do -- and I should add this to our tips section -- is I take my stand outside and hose it out good both before putting my tree up and after I take it down before storing it with the other decorations. I think this helps get rid of dust, dirt, needles and maybe any bacteria like you mentioned.

Merry Christmas!

Sent: Saturday, December 13, 2008 7:46 PM
Subject: FAQ Addition
We have noticed a sudden odor that seems to be coming from the tree. It is not coming from the water base as we were suspecting. What could it be?

What species of tree is it Maria? Crush/split open a few needles between your fingers and see if that releases an "evergreen" scent...unless it is a White Spruce, which has a distinctive odor most people would describe as unpleasant.

From: Maria
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 1:50 PM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: Re: RE: FAQ Addition

The only information I could get on the tree was it is a balsam tree from New Brunswick. Same place, same supplier I always get my tree from. One site online mentioned some trees are sprayed with fox urine, ? to deter deer or other tree eating animals? It actually does smell like the dogs went on the carpet, but there is no carpet in the room.
Crushed the needles. Definately evergreen smell but not the typical fragrance of a xmas tree. If you can shed any light on the mystery, thanks. If not, thanks for your efforts and email reply. I think the tree is going on the porch either way.
Merry Christmas,

Deer deterrent such as animal urine, when used, are typically applied to the ground around a field, not directly on a Christmas tree right before harvest. I wouldn't consider that a culprit. Now, that doesn't mean that some actual animal didn't soil that tree while it was growing in the field, but it would have had to be right before it was harvested I would think and among all the thousands of trees in a field ...I'd call that a very remote possibility.

It's more likely dirt, moisture and such. And I know you said it wasn't coming from the water in the stand but that is most often the culprit of a foul odor I've found over the years of answering questions about trees. Did you add anything to the water?

From: Maria
Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 6:53 AM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: Re:FAQ Addition
Hi Rick,

Thanks so much for the information. No, I did not add anything to the water. I feel much better knowing that some foul animal chemical was not sprayed on the tree. Should I try baking soda in the water as another blogger suggested? So far I have not done anything except spray Lysol, open the windows & bother you. I am very close to putting the tree on the porch outside against the kids wishes.

Thanks again,

first of all, you're not bothering me ...this is what I do

I recommend baking soda in the water to people who have put something in the water that is making it stinky. I'm not making this time a lady wrote to me and said she had taken a whole evergreen feeding spike, the kind you push into the ground near a tree's roots so it gets nitrogen all year, and crushed it and put it in the tree's water stand. Ugghhhhh. But, since you didn't put anything in the water, I don't think it's the culprit and baking soda wouldn't help.

When you say it is not a "typical fragrance of a Christmas tree" when you crushed the needles, that actually makes me think it is not a Balsam fir. Because...well, to probably 96.3% of the population, you couldn't get a MORE christmas tree type smell than crushed Balsam needles. I suspect it might actually be a White Spruce, which many people say has a disagreeable odor when the needles are crushed. It's very similar in appearance to a Balsam, so many people coudn't tell the difference.

If that is not the case, then my money is on something inside the foliage of the tree which is wet and maybe a bird's nest or a bunch of leaves or some other kind of organic matter.

Hello again Rick,

I think you hit the nail on the head. It must be a white spruce. The tree does not look any different than the ones we have had in the past but I am not the most observant. Will have my husband look at the link you sent and see what he thinks later.
The odor is not as bad as last week. I think I looked the tree over pretty well and I don't think anything is decomposing in it. That is unless a little mouse has drowned in the base and I can't see it. That might explain the strong odor that started abruptly and is slowly dissipating. All that being said, we don't usually have mice.
Now that the smell had eased up, I am not tossing the tree. Besides, the kids get bummed out when I mention it.
Thanks for the tips. I won't put anything in the water. If we don't put the lights on for too long the scent is less noticeable.
I will definately email you the day after xmas when we dismantle the tree if we find any evidence of decomp or anything else unusual.

Merry Christmas!

and a watering question

From: Victoria
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 6:15 PM
Subject: Tree wilted overnight

We live in Northern California.
We picked up a 7-foot Noble Fir at our local Home Depot. It smelled good, was very green and still wet inside, most likely from being on the truck. We tested the branches. Bent kneedles. All good. No loss or breakage.
When we got home we made a fresh straight cut and immediately put the tree in the stand in the water. 36 hours later the branches are all wilted and facing down. Is there anything we can do to perk it back up?

I’m very worried it died. Which would suck because it is fully decorated already.


Is the tree absorbing water from the stand Victoria? What is the outside temperature lately where you live?

From: Victoria Holl []
Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 12:12 PM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: RE: Tree wilted overnight
Hi Rick,
The tree does seem to be absorbing water. An inch or so a day is gone from the stand.
Our days have been in the low 60s and our nights in the 40s. My husband is the total heat miser so our heater is almost never on.

Hmm...well, that's unusual to say the least. I'm encouraged that it does seem to be absorbing water, albeit slowly. But variations in the rate of water absorption is normal, and with you keeping your home cooler than typical that will slow down the rate at which the tree loses moisture.

Was there anything applied to the tree?

If a tree was overly-dry to begin with, you would be able to tell that at the lot, and from what you describe it doesn't seem that way. Also, a tree past what we call the "point of no return" wouldn't be absorbing any water at all.

Exposure to short extremes of heat or cold can cause the foliage to "burn" changing it's appearance. One of the most common examples of this is people who haul their tree home in the bed of a pick up truck. The truck's exhaust heats that surface area and when people get their tree home later they notice that one side of it looks like it was burned. The other common example in colder areas, is someone laying their tree on frozen concrete for a while...that can cause "burning" of the foliage as well.

If you don't think the tree was exposed to any short temperature extremes or or any other external material (hopefully you did apply any fire retardant to it), then I would say just keep tabs on whether it is still absorbing water. Trees are in a state of dormancy when they are harvested, and sometimes it can take a while for that condition to reverse as the tree warms and absorbs water.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's this?...fake trees catch on fire?!?!?!

heck I thought they were fire retardant???? least they say so on the box. Wonder who tests them to make sure that claim is legit?...oh, that's right, nobody does.

One of these days a manufacturer making that claim on their box is going to get sued.

I'm sorry to this family and the store...I hope they're able to still have a Merry Christmas, and next year, maybe they'll consider a fresh, farm-grown Christmas tree.,0,6766381.story

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ordering Trees Online

Only 10 more days to get a tree if you haven't yet.

Want to see why the Trees for Troops program is so cool ...check out the piece NBC News did:

Every year when I tell people that you can buy a tree online, I get a series of "I never knew that's". Yep, it's really quite simple. It's a great option for people who maybe just don't have time or the vehicle needed to go to a farm or lot to get a tree. There are some restrictions, such as size and species, but if you just want a 5 to 7 foot tall tree, you can point, click, purchase and it shows up at your front door just like any other package.

We ordered a tree for our office this way and I took a series of pictures to show you what it is like. This is Aly from our office, holding up the box with the tree still in it shortly after it arrived.
The first thing to do is open the heavy end of the box (where the trunk is).
Once opened, just pull the trunk out enough to make a fresh cut off the bottom.
Here's Aly revving up the electric chain saw. You don't have to use power tools...a simple bow saw or wood saw will suffice.

Once that's done, open up the rest of the box, either by hand or with something sharp, like scissors, a box cutter, or as Aly's doing, with an exacto knife.

Next, if you have a type of stand that has bolts or cables or something attaching it to the tree, put it on and tighten about 75%. This will make it sturdy enough to stand up but still loose enough to make adjustments to get it straight.

Now you're ready to stand it upright, make final adjustments and add water to the stand. Lickety split ...the whole process took less than 10 minutes. Nicely done Aly!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Great Segment on Today Show

Great Segment on Today Show

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas at the White House 2008

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, I accompanied Pam Helmsing, executive director of NCTA, to Washington D.C. to present the official White House Christmas Tree. As this is my first year with NCTA, I have never seen the Blue Room Christmas Tree presentation. It was definitely a career high for Christmas Tree growers Jessie Davis and Rusty Estes of River Ridge Tree Farms, and I was glad I could be there to experience it, too.
Upon arriving at the White House on the day of the presentation, it took a bit of time to clear each of us through the security gates. Once on the grounds, Pam and I were busy coordinating with the first lady’s press office and the media. We distributed media kits with information about River Ridge Tree Farms, the official White House Christmas Tree, NCTA and general Christmas Tree facts and information. We also provided NCTA ornaments for the media. The weather was not agreeable as it continued to drizzle and stay gray throughout the presentation.
When Mrs. Bush came out of the White House doors, the U.S. Marine Corps Band, “The President’s Own,” played Christmas music as the wagon hauling the tree approached the portico. Though she kept it quick so everyone could move on and out of the rain, Mrs. Bush hit all of the high notes. Not only did she mention NCTA but she also quoted facts about the Fraser fir from River Ridge Tree Farms.

Once the presentation was complete, the families and NCTA staff were invited in out of the rain and into the Diplomatic Reception Room for cookies and hot chocolate. There we enjoyed the treats and warmed up as the family took pictures in front of the fireplace where a famous painting of George Washington hung above. In fact, the face on the $1 bill is a replica this painting. During our time at the White House, Chief Usher Admiral Stephen Rochon gave us quite a history lesson in the time allowed.

In a matter of 15 minutes, one of her press secretaries ushered in the first lady. Mrs. Bush took the time to take pictures with each of the families and NCTA staff. Though her schedule did not yield her much time to stay and visit, she was personable and enjoyable! She even spent time holding Rusty Estes’ grandson and taking a few extra pictures with the children.

Once she left and the hot chocolate and treats were gone, Admiral Rochon personally invited the family and NCTA staff back the following morning to see the Blue Room Christmas Tree being decorated and get a small tour of the White House. On that tour, we were able to see and learn the history of most of the rooms on the State Floor including the East Room, the Green Room, the Blue Room, the Red Room and the State Dining Room. We also saw all the rooms off the Ground Floor Corridor, including the Vermeil Room and the Library. Then we moved to the East Wing where we toured the bowling alley and the movie theater!

We were even lucky enough to run into the Superintendent of Grounds, Dale Haney with the Bush's dogs, Barney and Miss Beazley.
On the day of the presentation on our way out, , we watched the Parks Service crew pulling the Fraser fir tree through the front doors of the White House and into the Blue Room. It is no small task to pull a 21 foot tree through a small double-doorway and through the White House with all its valuable antiques and historic paintings. Getting the tree in the Blue Room, situating it in the stand and setting it upright is another job that takes the many hands. Watch the attached video to see just how complicated and tedious this process is.

Once we left the gates of the White House, life resumed its normalcy. For just a few hours, which seemed to go by so quickly, we were guests in the executive residence and workplace of the president of the United States, one of the highest honors I know I will ever receive.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Trees for Troops blog from Steve Drake

Trees for Troops -- Growing Again

Well, I've been on the West Coast since Monday (12/1) as part of the Trees for Troops program for the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, one of our client partners.
This is my fourth year being part of Trees for Troops ... and, I'm discovering that it is continuing to grow ... expecially in excitement among military families and in coverage from the news media.
In the first three years, we were able to provide fresh, farm-grown Christmas trees to 34,000 military families. Our goal this year is to reach another 16,000 families which means we've touched 50,000 families in four years.
And, this program is possible only because of the trees donated by more than 800 Christmas tree farms and the thousands of miles, trucks and drivers provided by the wonderful folks at FedEx Freight.
I started my trip assisting in the delivering of trees to soldiers at Ft. Lewis which is located between Olympia and Tacoma, Washington. The MWR folks at Ft. Lewis are adding to the program again this year. And, for the first time, the weather cooperated and was nice when we delivered the trees. A second shipment is scheduled for this coming week. It appears that we have more families seeking trees than we have trees available.
Ft. Lewis designated Sgt Jason Lane (shown being interviewed on radio) and his family to receive the first tree in 2008. Unfortunately, his wife and daughter were ill so he had to select the tree on his own.
Friday, I made two stops at Camp Pendleton in Southern Calfornia. I don't know how but the "CP crew" continues to outdo themselves in activities around Trees for Troops! Even more Marines and families waited at the San Onofre community center ... and all 300 trees were gone within 45 minutes!
Then, it was on to the "main site" ... wow! what an experience ... more than 650 families (thus probably more than 1,200 people) at the landing zone. All kids of activities from Saturn cars to Shamoo the whale and donated Calloway golf balls and about 40 FedEx volunteers wearing their purple FedEx Cares shirts and "Santa hats."
[As I arrived at the main site, several of the Camp Pendleton leaders said they saw a Trees for Troops story on CNN ... and that they already have ideas of how to make Trees for Troops even better in 2009!]
This year also included a special guest ... Anthony Galloway of NBC News in New York who is developing a special feature on Trees for Troops. He thinks it will air between December 20-22.
At his request, the Pendleton folks had selected two families that Anthony would follow from selection of their trees to putting it up in their homes. (FedEx donated tree stands.)
Cara Figueroa and her daughter Estrella joined Andrea Baker and her daughters Lilly and Molly in getting the first trees. Lance Cpl Rene Figeuroa and Cpl Sherman Baker are both deployed in Iraq and won't be home for the holidays.

As you can see in a couple of the photos at the top of this blog post, Lilly, 3, was the real "ham" as she climbed on their tree and proclaimed "my tree" to the cameras! Next, she was on top of the tree as Base Commander Colonel James Seaton and two Marine volunteers (Cathey Kimberly and Thurman Lanel) helped load the tree.

Watching Lilly's face is what makes Trees for Troops so special.
Colonel Seaton gave a short speech just before the volunteers started to unload the FedEx trucks. He said he was personally thankful to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation (and the 800+ tree growers) for the trees for the Marine families. He said the gifts were a huge boost for morale for the Marines and their families. I was humbled when he came over to me to thank me as the representative of all the tree growers who are part of Trees for Troops.My Google News Alert picked up this blog from a Marine wife at Camp Pendleton ... it really makes you feel great to see this appeciation for the gift of a fresh, farm-grown tree.
"Today, I was given a clean bill of health, AND a Christmas Tree! After my doctor’s appointment this morning I went to the area on base where they had ‘Trees for Troops’. A bunch of sponsors had tents set up for special drawings. We Might win a Wii or cash, but most likely we’ll get a lot of sales calls and junk mail. I’m okay with that. It was so cool to see over two thousand Christmas trees set out in rows for all of us. Brett couldn’t leave work so I went by myself. Our neighbor had gotten there super early to get our tickets. After everyone had a ticket and all the trees were off the tucks, they started calling numbers in groups of 25. I had number 52, so there were literally hundreds of trees from which to choose. The trees were already bundled so it was a tough decision; but I went with my “That’s OUR Christmas Tree” feeling when I came to a semi-plump six footer. It was only after I got the tree home, in the stand, and untied that I realize how plump this tree is. Good thing we only have the couch in here. But, oh how beautiful. Brett pointed out that is is a Fur tree and that’s why it’s so pretty. I’m letting the branches fall tonight, but I can’t wait to put the lights on. The smell has taken over the house. I love it. And to top it all off, the temperatures are finally falling. Not like home of course, but I might be retiring my flip-flops before Christmas….Maybe."What an inspiring message for all of you who have donated trees and/or worked on the Trees for Troops program!Well, I'll be off to Tampa Monday to be part of delivering trees to MacDill Air Force Base.Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!Steve

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A very common tree question about water uptake

Maria had a very common question about her tree.

From: Maria
Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2008 12:27 AM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas
I'm getting nervous!

We purchased our tree this past Wednesday, December 2. It's a white spruce. We made a fresh cut on the bottom before we put it in the stand, taking off about 3 inches. We also trimmed the top off, to make the tree fit in our living room. Then I filled the stand with warm water and a few tablespoons of standard, generic tree preservation liquid.

Within a few hours, the tree lapped up about half of the water in the stand.

Since then----this is 3 days later----it has drunk virtually nothing at all. There is also no scent at all coming from the tree (and there never was any real scent, not even on the first day).

I put the lights on today and absolutely must trim it fully tomorrow: My eldest son is arriving on Monday, December 8, for a few days (that will be his "home for Christmas " time).

However, after he leaves, we still have weeks to go until Chritmas (and the arrival of two other sons!) and I am worried that the tree won't make it through the holidays. I am thinking of stripping the tree of the lights, tossing it out, and rushing out tomorrow to try and get another tree....but the very idea makes me feel weak with stress! What do you think?

Thank you for your advice....

Hello Maria.

First, let me just say up front, I wouldn't be concerned. You haven't told me anything that indicates the tree will not absorb water as the season goes on. You did everything right by making a fresh cut and getting in a water stand right away. The fact that it did absorb water initially tells me that the plant tissue which absorbs water molecules is open and the tree will absorb more as it loses moisture through transpiration.

The rate at which this process happens is never uniform or consistent. Fluctuations are normal. For example, 2 years ago my tree sucked up about a gallon of water in the first 4 hours of getting inside in the stand...I could practically hear a sound like a sponge absorbing water. Then it didn't take up any more water again for about 3 days. Again, this is normal. Last year my tree -- same species -- didn't absorb hardly any water at all the first 2 days, then "switched on" and sucked up about a half gallon per day for the next 4 days. It really does vary like that. I just got my tree for this year last night, but won't put it up until tonight...I can't wait to see how it does this year.

My recommendation based on what you've told me is that it's OK to go ahead and trim it out fully. Add water to the stand once or even twice per day, even if it's only a little low. I say this because it would not be surprising at all for the tree to suddenly absorb a LOT of water in a short period of time and you want the stand full as often as possible so it doesn't run dry. No need to add anything to the water. If you place the tree away from places that will speed up moisture loss, it won't need to absorb water as quickly.

Now, on the scent....I always hesitate to talk much about scent, because the sense of smell is subjective and everyone is different. For example, when people ask me "what type of tree smells the best?" I don't touch that with a 10 foot pole; because what smells good to me may not to the next person. However, the White Spruce, while being a very pretty tree with excellent needle retention, is generally described as a tree which does not produce a good "Christmas tree aroma". In fact, many people describe an unpleasant odor when the needles are crushed. Every species has a different chemical composition of the pitch contained in the foliage, and the pitch is what produces aroma. Read more about the White Spruce here . I've smelled them before, and I wouldn't really describe it as having a "skunky" smell...I would say it "smells like the woods." But, like I said, sense of smell is different for everyone.

Go ahead and have a tree decorating party with your family and enjoy the beauty of a farm-grown Christmas Tree. Don't forget to recycle it after the holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Dear Rick,

Thank you SO MUCH for the extensive and knowledgeble advice! You really calmed me down! Everything you said made so much sense--- I believe you! Hence, the tree (which is really lovely, but has no scent at all, 'skunky', 'woodsy' or otherwise) will be with us all for this Christmas here in Amsterdam, NY.....and happily decorated this evening. 'O Tannebaum', indeed!

The Christmas Tree has always been the focal part of my family's Christmas. I could tell, you detected my nervousness, as the arrival of Son #1 approaches. I really am so grateful for your expertise, and will proceed with confidence.

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas. I hope your tree behaves itself.

with sincere thanks,

Friday, November 28, 2008

Think about recycling now.

OK, we all know that since they're a plant and 100% biodegradable, a Real Christmas Tree can be recycled, and more than 90% of them are from what we can tell. But recycling is done on a very local level. It's not uncommon for each county or even township/municipality to have their own recycling program.

And we also know that PVC and metal -- the materials fake trees are made from, not to put too fine a point on it -- are not biodegradable and can't be recycled.

So, as you head out this weekend or later to get your farm-grown Real tree, because you care about the environmental impacts of the products you use, think ahead about your local Christmas tree recycling information. If you see an article or flier or anything providing dates, locations and instructions on how to recycle your Christmas tree, do like I do and print a copy or clip it out and keep it handy. That way, it's no big deal after Christmas to make sure your tree gets recycled.

Here's an example ...where I live, in St. Louis city, they made a change this year and don't want trees put into the yard waste dumpsters. Instead, they have 3 city park locations designated as drop off points. No big deal, it might take me an extra 5 minutes this year. The point is, you can probably find something similar in your area, listing dates and locations.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tree Questions

FINALLY!...Christmas tree season is here, well I guess Friday it really starts. Some good questions and feedback starting to come in.

From: Stacey
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 9:45 AM
Subject: locating potted trees

I was reading an article about contacting you to find out if there are programs near where I live to purchase a live potted Christmas tree instead of a cut tree so that I may replant it. We are located north of Detroit Michigan and our zip code is 48069.

Can you assist? On your website I was only able to find cut trees.

Thank you in advance.


Hi Stacey.

Our database unfortunately does not have a searchable field for that service. However, if a farm/nursery offers rootball trees for transplanting after Christmas it will be in their detailed listing of services/products offered. Try a local business search (yellow pages or something similar) for nurseries. Many of them are not in our database because Christmas trees are a small part of their overall business, but they do specialize in landscape trees. Also, read the bottom section on care for a rootball tree

From: Caryn
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 1:30 PM
Subject: please give us hope for a REAL tree this year!

My husband and I have been married for seven years, and have spent every Christmas together with a real Christmas tree. We moved to Utah from Georgia three years ago and have had a horrible experiences
each Christmas with our trees getting completely dried out too soon.
Last year it was so bad that we had to take the tree out of the house a week before Christmas. In GA, we almost always picked our tree from a farm the weekend after thanksgiving. We have chosen fresh cut trees from Home Depot twice, with good results. My question is, is it possible to buy a fresh tree the weekend of Thanksgiving and still have it smell and look great Christmas day? When is the best time to purchase a tree? We follow all of the care tips each year, but still end up with the sorriest looking trees ever. What are we doing wrong?

Hi Caryn.
I don't think you're doing anything wrong. Remember, Thanksgiving jumped forward 5 days this year to the 27th, so it's only 4 weeks until Christmas. I think the thing to do, for anyone, is to be very selective about the retailer from whom you buy a tree. I don't know a lot about your climate specifically, but dry air and sun (even if it's cold, although to a lesser extent) can dry a tree out faster on a retail lot if not properly stored and displayed by the retailer.
You said you had good experiences with a Home Depot...places like that which have garden centers tend to be better because they are experienced in dealing with plants. Look for a retailer who stores extra inventory of trees in the shade, out of the wind. If they spray water on the ground below displayed trees each day, that extra humidity helps trees.
You know, one other option to look into possibly is to buy a tree online from a farm direct and have it shipped. I do this each year and then you get a tree that was just harvested in the last 7 days or so. Not all species can be shipped and 7 foot is the maximum height, but it's another option.
Another thing to think about is the display conditions in your home itself. Again, sun is bad...don't display a tree in front of a window which gets a lot of sunshine each day, or if it is, keep the shades down until it's dark. The relative humidity in your home can have an impact, so homes with gas or electric furnaces which tend to have very dry air inside can be inhibitive to the amount of time the tree retains moisture. If that's the case, a humidifier may help.

From: MLindaG@
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 11:37 PM
Subject: Purchasing a tree

I have a question about purchasing a tree now at the end of November but not putting it up until Dec. 17th. We would like to put it on our porch (we live in PA.......cold and snowy here now). We are going to Florida for a week and would not be able to put it in water. Can we give it a fresh cut and place in water in the house when we get back and will it survive and be OK. We are afraid to wait until the 17th to purchase as we always get a nice tall 13 ft. tree - we might not find one..........also the college boys are home for Thanksgiving and can help us pick it out........get it on top of the van and haul it home.


Hi Linda.

I can't tell you the likelihood of 13 footers still being around by Dec 17th...maybe at a choose and cut farm if they have trees that big, but if you do want to go ahead and buy one now, here's what I'd recommend. First, if it's netted up, keep it in the netting. This will slow the rate of moisture loss by exposing less of the tree's foliage to air. Set it in the largest bucket you have (minimum 5 gallons) filled with water within 3 -5 hours of having a fresh cut off the base. Store it somewhere other than inside the home, unless you plan to turn your heat WAY down while your gone. A garage or even a porch that doesn't face North would be better. Sun, wind and heat will speed up the rate at which the tree loses moisture. So set it somewhere it won't be exposed to any of those three things. Then when you get back, even if there's still water in the bucket, go ahead and make another fresh cut to expose new plant tissue, and put it in your stand for display, then cut the netting off.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Don't be fooled by allergy doctor

Heres' the concern we have with reference to the Christmas tree mold issue. We would never dispute the results; we're quite sure the device did measure an increase in mold spores during the time frame. But we take issue with what the allergy doctor did with that measurement.

1. He called it a study, which, with no control group measured and compared, is misleading at best. As pointed out in the White Paper, standards for scientific research were not adhered to and therefore, the conclusions should not be referred to as a "study."

2. He never presented his findings in front of a panel of peers, either medical professionals or mold experts. He merely left documents with some charts laying around at the conference.

3. He proactively contacted TV stations and newspapers offering to be interviewed about his new "study" he "recently presented" showing that Christmas trees cause allergic reactions to mold. And during these interviews told consumers if they had a farm-grown Christmas tree in their home longer than 10 days, they would suffer from post-nasal drip and other ailments.
That's highly unethical in our view.

What was his motivation for outreaching to news media? Was it purely altruistic pursuit of scientific/medical research? Was it to drum up patients/business for his practice? Was it to beef up a research grant application? Was there any tie to artificial Christmas tree companies? We don't know the answer, but find the whole thing rather suspicious, as did the scientists who signed the White Paper. As their conclusion states:
"The authors of this presentation linked allergenic fungal spores to real Christmas trees without sufficient scientific proof. The data presented are clearly preliminary and the conclusions made by the authors are not supported by sound science due to shortcomings in the experimental design....Due to the aforementioned shortcomings, the conclusion of the study is questionable. Further studies on Christmas trees in indoor environments are necessary to address the public concerns about airborne fungi in the near future."

Obviously, I am writing with a clear bias...won't deny that. But I ask that you understand where our sensitivity comes from. People who sell artificial Christmas trees have spent many years and major dollars trying to convince the public to buy an artificial tree instead of a farm-grown one by telling them they are likely to be allergic to the real thing.

So, if you see any news reports about a "Mold Study", understand where it comes from and that it has no scientific basis. Read the full White Paper on this page

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Here come the 'tree fire' stories!

It's that time of year when more than 30 million homes in the U.S. will decorate with a farm-grown Christmas tree. It's also a time when consumers will read or see the "Christmas tree fire story" and be scared out of buying a real tree.

The growers and retailers of farm-grown trees have been working with fire safety officials, scientists and testing labs for years to provide scientifically proven steps on how to properly display a harvested tree to ensure high moisture content. These tips can be found at

Hopefully people will follow our care instructions and not be fooled by dramatized news stories. What do I mean by dramatized news stories? Have you seen the clip from the Tonight Show?

Often, consumers are told that "Christmas trees can cause a fire in a manner of seconds." This is highly erroneous and unethical. A National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) published report on Christmas Tree Fires shows just the opposite. First of all, a cut Christmas tree has NEVER, ever, ever in history CAUSED a fire. Fires are caused by sparks, flames, heat or chemical reactions.

Secondly, if you look at the NFPA data, you see that a confirmed average of 111 fires per year between 2002 and 2005 in the U.S. were ones in which a cut tree was the first item ignited in a residential fire, both accidentally and intentionally. During the same period of the report, an average of 28 million cut Christmas trees were displayed. Divide 111 by 28 million. You get 0.0000039, or 0.0004%. You'd think that number would be MUCH higher based on the caterwauling on local action news broadcasts.

Thirdly, another interesting item in the NFPA report is that fire officials state clearly that artificial trees also catch on fire every year. Currently, no testing lab or standards for those products to meet in order to print the words "flame retardant" on their packaging exist. They're really just words on a box. Fake trees catch on fire every year. According to the NFPA report, 28% confirmed residential fires where a Christmas tree was the first item ignited were a fake tree. But consumers are seldom told this.

Please don't be scared by people with misleading information and typical news media scare tactics. They're not interested in getting you the facts, they're only interested in getting you to watch the evening news.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Think you'll be in the Christmas Spirit?

Trees for Troops kicks off next Wednesday with the collection of farm-grown trees in Ohio which will be boxed up and begin a long journey to the Middle East and Afghanistan. Hiopefully they will bring a little Christmas spirit to our fellow citizens serving in our military currently deployed away from home.

I've been to that tree collection event before…it is quite a neat thing to see. About 300 trees are dropped off at the state Dept. of Ag from growers all over the state. An Ag inspector looks over every tree for signs of bugs, some are rejected because they don't want non-native species being sent to other locations, but most pass inspection. Then they are pulled into a 1'x1'x8' box by a baling machine. Labels are slapped on, and some decorations made by school kids are put into the boxes with the trees. They are loaded up onto a Fed Ex truck and away they go.

We'll be having results from a poll measuring the "mood" or Christmas Spirit of Americans later this month. Will probably post results on November 24, just before Thanksgiving, so watch for that if you're interested in whether a bad economy will make people not want to celebrate Christmas. As I said last week, at least as far as trees are concerned, we don't think it has any impact.

I had a couple people ask this week about how to do a Christmas tree that still has roots and can be planted after Christmas. That's a great option if you need landscape trees in your yard anyway…it's like killing 2 birds with 1 stone. But you do have to plan it out. It's not as easy as you might think and mortality rates can be high when transplanting a tree. Read over our general tips here and also ask questions from the local farm/nursery where you buy it. Our tips are general, but transplanting a tree in Florida is drastically different than doing so in Minnesota, especially in January.

I expect we'll start getting questions pretty soon…so feel free to write them in and contribute comments to the blog.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ghosts for now, trees soon

So, tomorrow is November 1. We're officially 55 days away from Christmas. Some interesting things came up this week and I wanted to post them before going trick or treating with my nieces tonight.

First, the Trees for Troops program just received a major award for community projects which Advance America from American Society of Association Executives at their annual convention. They produced a short video outlining the program. We posted it on our You Tube page...please go have a look .

This tidbit made me sad.....NOT! Apparently fake tree factories in China are facing fewer orders and tough financial times. AWWWWWW. This article at Report on Business dot com
included this quote:
"U.S. clients are asking for cheaper Christmas trees this year, he said. But his company is squeezed between its falling revenue and rising costs, slashing its profit to 10 to 15 per cent from more than 20 per cent in the past. Its work force has fallen 15 per cent and overtime is sharply down."

In a related topic, I had several inquiries this week from business reporters asking about prices of trees and effect of economy on purchases of the real thing, farm-grown fresh Christmas trees. Here's what I tell them: people in the business on the retail lot end will say that economy doesn't really have that much impact on tree purchases because people will not sacrifice such an important tradition no matter how tight their budget may be. We also know that no matter what the state of the economy, tree prices always vary by a great deal based on many, many factors. No matter what, you can probably go just about anywhere in the U.S. and find farm-grown trees ranging from $15 up to $200. I always tell people, if price is your #1 determining factor, then shop around.

If you see any news reports claiming that "trees will cost $_____ this year...blah blah" just ignore them. Nobody can predict what price tags will be on trees.

And finally, I caught this silly fake tree guy from some company called Christmas Central dot com paying for "news" releases this week, then posting the same drivel at bloggeron dot net. I say drivel very dirisively because it is filled with nothing but lies and misinformation. This is nothing new of course, fake tree people have been lying about their product and farm-grown trees for years in order to get people to buy their stuff.

Next week, we'll start doing more regular posts. And we'll start with some new data from the National Fire Protection Association's report on home fires involving Christmas trees.

For now, Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

White House Christmas Tree Selected

One of the coolest things that the national Christmas Tree Association does is present the official White House Christmas Tree to the first lady each year. This is the tree that is displayed in the Blue Room of the White House, holds hand-made ornaments from around the country, is often the backdrop for interviews with the First Lady during the Holiday Season, and is often featured in HGTV’s White House Christmas Special.

Members of the White House Staff visited River Ridge Tree Farm in Ashe County, North Carolina today to select the tree that will be the focal point of the White House decorations this year. But the road to the White House began many years ago for partners Jessie Davis and Rusty Estes. Davis has been planting Christmas trees since high school, and Estes got into the business in 1979.

And the tree itself has waited may years to acheive greatness. The 20-foot Fraser fir was planted some 20 years ago, and stand among 40 or so magnificent peers.

Admiral Steve Rochon, Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher of the White House said that the selection was particularly difficult this year because there were so many beautiful trees to choose from. The Blue Room Christmas Tree has to be a minimum of 18 ½ feet tall, so it will reach from floor to ceiling. Most Christmas Trees are harvested long before they reach that height, but Davis and Estes had a number of perfect trees to fit the bill.

The tree selected edged out the competition because it had lots of lush, thick foliage, a deep green color, and strong branches to hold the heavy ornaments that the White House will use this year. The decorating theme for the White House is a closely held secret each year, but because of the size of the tree, it’s not unusual for many of the ornaments to be 8 inches or more in diameter, with some being much heavier than most people use in their homes.

Davis and Estes won the honor of providing this special tree to the White House by winning the National Christmas Tree contest in August. In order to qualify to enter that competition, they had to win the North Carolina Christmas Tree Associations Tree contest last year. At the national level, the tree from River Ridge Tree Farm was judged the best of show by both fellow tree growers and consumers.

Davis and Estes will present the tree to Mrs. Bush in a ceremony at the White House on November 30 at 3 pm Eastern. Check back for updates on the tree and the family!

Thanks to everyone that covered or watched this story, which ran in 19 States that we know of (Alabama, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin) plus the District of Columbia. The Nielsen Audience for this story topped 2.9 million viewers!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

possible energy savings?

got an interesting email this weekend about another angle to consider in the fake vs real tree debate (which is over in my mind)

From: tulis@
Sent: Saturday, October 11, 2008 7:32 PM
Subject: Another fact...

I have been reading your pages about artificial vs. real trees - another point to consider is that real trees save energy. Fake trees go up after Thanksgiving and don't come down until after New Years. Most real trees are only up about two and half weeks or so. The lights plus all those movable ornaments use up losts of electricity...

well, that's an interesting consideration...although, with no real way to quantify it, putting it up on a chart of facts is probably not a good idea. I'd have to say this about the theory:
- Thanksgiving moves backward 1 day on the calendar each year, except leap years, and then jumps forward either 5 or 6 days every 6 years. For example, in 2007 it was on November 22, and this year it will be on Nov 27.
- we simply don't know when people put up a tree and I suspect it varies greatly each and every much so, that there's probably not much of a standard deviation
-those small tree light strings actually use very little electricity, energy savings would be negligible

I think the main point that escapes most people's thought process is what happens to all fake trees eventually. Because people say they use one for many years, but eventually they will ALL BE THROWN AWAY. And they will sit in landfills for eons never decomposing. That's the real environmental burden, and that's only post-use.

Rick Dungey

what do you think? your comments on whether there's an energy savings by having a farm-grown Christmas tree up for shorter periods of time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Confounding ad

An ad for Claritan allergy medicine came across our office the other day. It has some fascinatnig claims about climate change, plant biology and allergies of course.

here's my random take/thoughts on the claritan ad

-"low-allergy trees" ..??????....seriously?....what, are they a root-cutting, sterile species/variety? ...what kind of tree are they planting?...that has about as much credibility as Coke claiming their product is a "low-fat beverage"

-250 acres that sounds like a lot doesn't it?...especially to the average consumer....pardon the pun, but that's a "leaf in the forest" compared to the millions of acres already covered in natural growth forest, managed forest and tree farms.

-they correctly claim that planting trees removes CO2 from the atmosphere....but fail to explain that the carbon sequestered in the plant tissue is also released back into the atmosphere and other soil compounds when the plant dies and decomposes....its called a cycle, and the average person doesn't understand that...which is why our Real Trees 4 Kids! curriculum is so important, it has a unit on the carbon cycle in the grades 6-8 section ...middle schoolers understand this, but Claritan is hoping the average consumer doesn't

-here's the main part that gets me though...they claim that climate change has increased CO2 levels, "causing earlier spring allergy seasons and higher pollen levels..." ....first of all, they must not live in the Midwest, where we've had 2 of the worst winters on record the past 2 years and ice-out didn't occur in Minn where I went fishing Memorial Day until 10 days before we got there ....and really, doesn't increased pollen levels actually indicate that plant-life in general is doing better, growing more vigorously and reproducing successfully?, on the one hand, they are promoting and planting more plants to lower CO2 levels, but with lower CO2 levels, plant life wouldn't do as well and also saying they have a product to help alleviate a problem caused by more plant life ...??????

I guess I'm such a cynic that I see nothing but contradictions in this.

And I still want to know what a "low-allergy tree" is. The VAST Majority of trees are not an allergen to people, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. In fact, only 1/5th of one percent (o.oo2) of tree species cause allergies.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Not to pick on China or anything...

We saw a great article today on a British E-zine called The Independent. Full article link here

It describes labor conditions in China and how workers are not allowed to form unions, negotiate for safe work conditions or higher wages nor get adequate medical care when injured on the job. What I found most interesting was the quotes from workers at a factory making artificial Christmas trees:

The China Labour Bulletin conducted a study of their lives. Ms Zhang, a 21-year-old woman who made artificial Christmas trees, was a typical interviewee. "We worked seven days a week, and we only had three days off a year," she says. "We worked overtime every night until 10 in the evening. The workshop was always filled with smoke. You couldn't see very far. When you entered the room, your eyes burned and watered, and you had difficulty breathing."

One night, Ms Zhang – exhausted and sore-eyed – was pushing plastic through an iron-roller when she felt terrible pain. Her hand was trapped. She was taken to hospital for extensive skin-grafts. Two weeks later the factory abruptly stopped paying for the medical treatment. They told her to get back to work. "I felt like jumping out of a window," she told the researchers. The skin on her hand is still peeling and painful.

"When you enter this factory," another young woman says, "you are under their control. If you get tired and want to stretch your neck or look around, you can't. They won't even allow you to look around!" If you do, you are docked the day's wages. To prevent workers from trying to seek out better factories, it's normal to pay two or three months in arrears. If you quit, do you get the backlog? Never.

I just want to point out that 85% of all fake Christmas trees purchased in the U.S. come from China, according to the Commerce Dept. If you or someone you know uses a fake tree, ask them if this story provides any holiday cheer while they decorate it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yikes on the plastic.

Great article and accompanying blog about trying to eliminate plastic in consumer products. I read her blog, but couldn't see a reference to what type of Christmas Tree she uses. I wonder if she has a nasty, fake plastic tree?,9171,1821664,00.html

Monday, June 30, 2008

Another consideration on the environment "debate"

Clearly, the "debate" is settled, but there's nothing wrong with pointing out even more little known facts about Christmas tree farms and how they benefit eco-systems.

Here's a link to an article about a tree farm in North Carolina, which was recently bequeathed to two farm managers along with lots of acreage around it. They are going to sell it to a conservancy group to maintain it as a public use outdoor recreation area, rather than sell to developers.

hmmm....tree farms or more mini-malls? gee, that's an easy choice in my mind.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

2007 Trees for Troops Recap

courtesy of Nicole Kellogg, Program Coordinator

My two-week Tour De Trees for Troops started this year in St. Louis and took me to Fort Leonard Wood, MO, Fort Campbell, KY and Fort Knox, KY. The end of the first week I came home and visited Scott Air Force Base and then traveled to Georgia where I stopped at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Fort Gordon. It was a whirlwind two weeks, but always worth the trip.

Trees for Troops Weekend, Friday, Nov. 30 – Sunday, Dec. 2, Becky and I worked the Trees for Troops Weekend lot in Chesterfield, MO, where customers could buy a tree and load it onto the FedEx truck. They also had the chance to write a special message on a “tree tag” that would be sent with the tree to a military family. Running a tree lot is a lot more labor intensive than it looks, especially in freezing rain! That didn’t stop customers from coming though!

Fort Leonard Wood
Megan (pronounced Meegan) and the folks at Fort Leonard Wood were great. They have a fenced-in area where 30 + military volunteers helped unload the trees for storage that night to be distributed the next day. The FedEx center manager even rode along with the driver to see the delivery. FedEx employees do a great job of visiting many of the bases and helping to unload the trees and the fact that the center manager came along just reinforces their commitment to the Trees for Troops program and the military families it serves.

While we were there we received a “challenge coin” from two of their higher-ranking service members. Challenge coins, I have been told, are not given lightly in the military. They are given by officers to lower-ranking service members and civilians for a job well done. The challenge is the next time you see the person you have to show them your coin or else you must buy them a “beverage” of their choice.

Fort Campbell
Fort Campbell has their distribution system very well coordinated with vouchers. Families came one after the other in a steady flow to pick out their perfect tree. Phyllis, Communications Manager for FedEx, helped to distribute coloring books and stuffed teddy bears that were very well received by kids and parents too!

Fort Knox
Phyllis and I headed to Fort Knox, where Sherry and her staff were VERY helpful. This was Fort Knox’s first year coordinating the event. I think Sherry was a little nervous that everything would go smoothly, but it all went off without a hitch! Trees were unloaded right before it started to rain, but with Sherry’s advanced planning, everyone could gather under the tents she had set up and drink the hot chocolate provided by FedEx. Phyllis also presented the base with a signed card by FedEx employees.

After Fort Knox, I headed back to St. Louis where I visited Scott Air Force Base. There must have been a line a mile long, but everyone in the line received a tree by the end of the night. The snow and hot chocolate and Christmas music provided by the USO really put everyone in the Christmas Spirit!

Fort Benning
On Dec. 9, I headed to Atlanta, GA and then drove a couple of hours to Fort Benning. The weather was beautiful, 70 degrees, and I had packed sweaters. Darlene, the base coordinator of the program, was loving life in her shorts. Her two outdoor recreation assistants, Jesse and John, were there again this year to help unload. Even though Jesse had taken another job on base, he still came back to help unload the trees. Elsie, Public Affair Officer for Fort Benning, was also on site helping with the media. One of my favorite pictures from the Trees for Troops Program came from Fort Benning. Here it is!

Mike Brumby’s Pick-up
From Fort Benning I drove to Tifton, GA where I met up with Mike Brumby and his wife, Moppie and received a great tour of the farm. They are one of the larger farms in Georgia so there was plenty to see! I especially enjoyed Mike’s “test” area where he had experimented with growing different types of trees.

The next morning many members of the local community came out to show their support and help load the trees, including the Sheriff, who had purchased 10 trees to go to families.

Fort Stewart At Fort Stewart, I met up with Greg again and also James Ellison, base coordinator. James had volunteers from the BOSS program (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers) available to help unload. They always have a fun group who enjoys helping out even if they aren’t the ones receiving the trees.

Fort Gordon
Fort Gordon was my last stop. Like Camp Lejeune, they have a “drive-by” Trees for Troops where families drive up in a parking lot and select their tree. A higher ranking officer was picking out her tree and she said “Where’s FedEx?” I told her that although I wasn’t with FedEx I represented the Foundation that helped to provide the trees. She thanked me and said it was a great thing we were doing for their soldiers.

2007 has been the best year yet for Trees for Troops! Just take a look at the numbers below:

  • Number of Trees Delivered: nearly 17,000
  • Number of Trees Shipped Overseas: 400
  • Number of Countries: 7
  • Number of Participating Farms/Lots: 750-800
  • Number of Participating States: 29
  • Number of Trailer Drop Locations: 40
  • Number of Military Bases: 37 (all branches of service, including National Guard and Coast Guard)
  • Number of FedEx air miles (for overseas shipments): 17,000
  • Number of FedEx over-the-road miles: more than 51,000
Thank you to everyone involved with the program. I truly have enjoyed working with everyone I have met. A special thank you to all of the military men and women and their families who serve our country every day! Thank you!

Friday, February 8, 2008

More Pets ...

What a wild and wacky day. The Web site was down for a while. Suffice it to say, that makes for a difficult time at the association because we rely on the Web site to disseminate so much information, including this blog.

We received more “best tree for a cat” questions’s kind of weird how a topic will be asked about in bunches. We received 5 or 6 questions about cats and Christmas Trees in a 24 hour period. In addition to what I replied yesterday, a comprehensive web site that has tips for pet safety during the holidays is

We’re having great media coverage of the Trees for Troops program. FedEx picked up trees in New York state, Minnesota and Oregon today. Tomorrow they are picking up trees in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California.

Found an interesting news story today broadcast on an Atlanta TV station. There was a scientist from a university in North Carolina urging people to heed the warning labels on fake trees that they contain lead. Of course, here in St. Louis, we’re well aware of the health hazards of lead.
Yet another reason to use a natural farm-grown Christmas Tree instead of a fake, plastic one. We have collected other not-so-well-known tidbits about fake trees on the “Fake Tree” page.