Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Common Questions

Lots of people went out this past weekend to get their special tree for this year and begin decorating. It's such a great tradition! From the un-scientific poll we conducted with about 75 retail locations, it seems tree sales were brisk, at least at choose and cut farms. You can see some of the quotes here.

Hey! My tree got here yesterday! Woohoo! So here's what it looked like just last week at The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire where it was planted and grown.

Now here it is on my front porch after I ordered it online last week and it was harvested, boxed up and shipped. You can read earlier posts to follow the whole story.

I can't wait until this weekend when I have free time to put the tree up and decorate! Stay tuned, I can video some of that.

OK, on to some common questions. Obviously we've edited out the email address and full name of people who send in questions, but the questions and answers are just as they are.

From: l_nettesheim
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:30 PM
To: info@realchristmastrees.org
Subject: conflicting information

On my lunch today, I researched several web pages, and found that just as many comments that both recommend AND dispel the practice of 'drilling holes' in the trunk to increase water uptake for my christmas tree.

Can you settle the debate for me?

Yes, I can. It doesn’t really help. Here’s the scientific explanation.

The cambium is a thin layer of living cells just beneath the bark. When the cambial cells divide, they produce bark to the outside, and xylem (wood) to the inside. Technically, the cambium is only a few layers of cells in thickness. There are two types of xylem (wood): sapwood and heartwood. The sapwood normally makes up a zone of annual growth rings just beneath the bark. Sapwood is efficient in transporting water. At some point -- varies by species -- the sapwood becomes heartwood, and dies. This is easy to see in many species, e.g., white oak has a tan sapwood; yellow-poplar has a green sapwood; redwood has red sapwood. One characteristic of most heartwood is extractives -- chemicals deposited into the cells before they die. One classic example is "fat pine" or "heart pine", the heartwood of longleaf pine. It is very dense and oily with a nice fragrance. This heartwood is impervious to water, very resistant to decay, and difficult to glue. The primary purpose of heartwood is support and strength for the stem.

Normally, Christmas trees are not grown to an age where heartwood forms. Consequently, all the wood in the trunk is sapwood, which can transport water. Thus, the available wood to take up water is essentially the cross-sectional area of the wood in the stem. If you drill a small hole in the center of the trunk, it represents only a small fraction of the cross-sectional area on a typical tree with a trunk diameter of say 4 or 5 inches. Therefore the water uptake would be little affected. Further, if the depth of water in the stand is sufficient to reach the upper end of the hole, there is essentially no reduction in the area available for water uptake.

From: Amanda
Sent: Monday, November 29, 2010 7:32 AM
To: info@realchristmastrees.org
Subject: blog question about my Christmas Tree

We got a 12 foot tree yesterday at a local lot. They put a fresh cut at bottom when we got it and we had it home and in the tree stand in water within about 3 hours. I just checked this morning and it looks like the tree is not drinking much water. The water is only about a 1/4 inch lower than when I filled it. Our trees usually drink a lot more over night. Is it ok or do we need a fresh cut?

The rate of water absorption will vary throughout the time it is displayed. Some days it will absorb a lot, some days not so much. This is normal. It can take some time for the plant to come out of a state of dormancy. Just keep the stand filled with water because it can absorb A LOT of water in a short period of time once it starts.

From: Janelle
Sent: Thursday, November 25, 2010 8:16 PM
To: info@realchristmastrees.org
Subject: Christmas Tree Question

This year will be my first tree with my new family. Obviously, I've had trees in the past when I was younger, but I never experienced something like this before. My tree is making a clicking noise. I heard it could be the sap, settling, cracks in the bark or even pine beetles or some other sort of bug infestation. It's almost constantly clicking/crackling with or without the lights on. Do you have any sort of insight on what this most likely is?? No one seems to have a definite answer even though this seems to be fairly common.

I had that question a couple years ago. I asked some of the plant pathologists and they said it was all of the tree’s plant tissue warming, softening and absorbing moisture. They said it was normal and wouldn’t impact the needle retention or moisture uptake of the tree.

From: Al Jr.
Sent: Monday, November 29, 2010 6:16 PM
To: info@realchristmastrees.org
Subject: bleach

hi NCTA i have a question that i have always wondered about.

why do some people put bleach in christmas trees? what exactly does it do?

I can’t speak to reasons people would have to do that, I just know that the scientists recommend against it. It does nothing beneficial for the tree and can actually kill plant tissue.

Keep the questions coming. More to come later this week.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

White House Christmas Tree Gets Thumbs Up

A beautiful Douglas-fir will be the Official White House Christmas Tree this year and will be displayed in the Blue Room throughout the holiday season. The tree was officially presented to the First Lady Michelle Obama in a ceremony at the North Portico on Friday.

The tree was grown and presented by Christmas Tree farmer Christopher Botek of Crystal Springs Tree Farm II of Lehighton, Pa. Botek earned this honor by winning the National Christmas Tree Association's (NCTA) national Christmas Tree contest held in August 2010 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and becoming Grand Champion.

The First Lady and her daughters Malia and Sasha looked the tree over and gave it the thumbs up. Mrs. Obama exclaimed, “We’ll take it!” and wished all “Happy Holidays!”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas Trees and Tomatoes

And away we go...let the hectic-ness begin in earnest!

First, a word about this blog entry title. I did a long interview today with Beth Wilson, host of an internet blog radio show called Enlisted Spouse Radio. We talked about trees, and talked about the Trees for Troops program obviously, and even talked about indoor gardening for a while. She told me she grew tomatoes inside her home, which I never knew you could do. So I told her I was going to title my next blog "Christmas Trees and Tomotoes" ...I am a man of my word. You can hear the program here.

The tree we are following from farm to home this year was harvested today and sent on its way here to St. Louis. It should arrive maybe this weekend, but we can track it. You can watch a video of the tree being harvested and how they get one into a box on The Rocks Tree Farm's YouTube channel. Click here to see it.

This is gonna be fun really. The Boston Globe was out at the farm today to also document the tree being sent on its way to the Midwest, and we're planning to have plenty of photos and video of the tree once it gets here.

So, just after Thanksgiving, I'll start sharing some of the email questions we get from tree enthusiasts. I try to stick either very common questions or very odd questions. Answers to all will be included. You are welcome to email your questions to info@realchristmastrees.org or post comments directly here on the blog. As you can see from previous entries, I always remove the full name and email addy before posting here.

Just for a sneak preview though, I got this email recently:
From: Denise
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2010 8:52 PM
To: info@realchristmastrees.org
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas
Importance: High

I recently saw an artificial Christmas tree at Hobby Lobby. It had a snow look on the tips & it felt like a plastic or an acrylic. It was definity hard, you could tap your finger nail on it. It was white & what I liked about it was that it would not rub off, like a flocking spray. Do you have any idea what it might have been? Thank you for your help, Denise.

I have no idea what kind of plastic it is. We only use farm-grown real trees, not fake plastic ones.

(shaking head)....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Order Up!

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the first decorated Christmas Tree, recorded in 1510 in Riga, Latvia. A special 500th Anniversary section has been added to the NCTA web site, click on it to check out what’s available. Have you watched the promotion video done by the Riga tourism folks? You really should, it's impressive. You can watch it here.

I heard there was a commercial on the Mike & Mike show on ESPN2 this morning for Bass Pro Shops that talked about a traditional Christmas and having a Real Christmas Tree. If anyone knows where I can see a copy of that commercial, email us. We’d love to see it. I sometimes watch Mike & Mike in the morning, but didn’t today. DOH!

So apparently our idea of following a tree on the blog from the farm to a home is an interesting enough idea that our little story is getting some attention. Myself and The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire are working with a writer at the Boston Globe to do a feature story on the tree we are following. That’ll be fun.

So today, I went ahead and did the official ordering of the tree. I shot a little video just to show that it really is like ordering anything else online. You can watch the video at our YouTube channel. Sometimes people ask me, “aren’t you afraid of ordering a tree sight unseen?” Well, sure, I guess there’s some risk that the tree I end up with will not be what I had in mind when I ordered it. Whether it will be a different size than what I thought I ordered, or sheared differently or whatever. But, think about it...the farm is really taking the bigger risk. They have to send me a tree and hope that I like it and the buying experience enough that I become a repeat customer and talk about them, leading to referral business. They know nothing about me...I’m just an address and a credit card number.

I think it’s a lot like buying a floral arrangement for a wedding, birthday or funeral services and having it delivered somewhere you aren't. I do that all the time too. There’s lots of online flower delivery businesses out there. You just check a box next to a photo of an arrangement that looks good and is in your price range. I’ve never had any problem with that product, and I’ve never had any problem with a Christmas tree. I check the box next to a picture of the size and species I want, and a few days later I have my tree.

Well, anyway, I ordered the tree – a little sooner than I normally would – but it will be here in St. Louis next week. And hey, next week is Thanksgiving already!!! Woohoo! Tree sales starts in only 9 days!

Next week we’ll have an update on the tree from farm to home and start sharing some email questions, which are already coming in.

Friday, November 5, 2010

50 days until Christmas!!!

Here's something cool. The official 500th Anniversary “The Spirit of Christmas” commemorative painting to benefit the Christmas Spirit Foundation & the National Christmas Tree Association arrived in our office. Lauren from our office is holding it up here while we figure out a place to display it. The original painting was done by artist Jesse Barnes.

You can also buy a copy from Fine Art Limited http://www.fineartlimited.com/index.html

I found this story amusing. One of our members in Virginia emailed me about a request they received from a regional magazine to be interviewed about trees. This is not an uncommon thing at all. What was amusing in a "what-were-they-thinking" way was that the article they had written had lines like "people with an avid respect for the environment should choose an artificial Christmas tree" ....WHAT?!!?? Seriously???

First of all, this is completely wrong, but even if you falsely believe that, why then would you expect a tree farmer to help you with that article? More irony, the magazine's mission partly is to be a "seasonal publication that will connect consumers with local family farmers" ....uh, huh. Yet you tell your readers to buy a fake tree made in a factory in China instead of a real tree grown on a family farm.