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December 7, 2009

Live (as in still living) Christmas tree

Kate Hart
I said I would post the results of my son's race car party today, but I was so busy running around that I didn't get great pictures. So we'll put that off until I can bug the grandmothers for copies of their pics.

In the meantime, I'll show you what we did on Sunday: Our Christmas tree! It's a living, breathing, real live tree, purchased from a local nursery. Live trees are expensive, but worth it, in my opinion, because not only did you save a tree (time out for obligatory tree hugging), you've also:

  • Bought an enormous month-long air cleaner for your house
  • Provided your children, if you have them, with an important lesson on both conservation AND botany
  • Procured additional landscaping for your yard, which can also serve as
  • A wind block for your house, provided you plant the tree on the north side-- which in turn
  • Helps to lower your heating bills and also
  • Looks really pretty.
So why doesn't everybody put their money where their mouth is and shell out the $85 our live tree cost? Well, for one thing-- $85. But to be fair, lots of cut trees cost just as much. The main reason, I think, is fear. I'll be honest: A friend's family got a live tree one year. It died. So I was never willing to try on my own-- because logically, mine would die too.

But after my husband worked in a nursery as well as at a gardening supply store for a year or two, I let him convince me it could be done, and lo and behold: It worked. Both our big tree AND the tiny one we bought for my son flourished-- and even survived last winter's ice storm, despite losing their tops.

So how do you do it? Let's address those fears.

"How do I care for it? What if it dies before I plant it?"
Unlike cut trees, live trees don't need to be watered regularly, provided you give the root ball enough water before setting it up. We watered ours while it was still in the trailer (but our last live tree, we managed to put in the back of a Cherokee). Unless you're setting your tree up in a windowless room, the sunlight it gets should be enough to keep it going for the month of December.

ETA: Husband adds that the root ball is watered enough when it feels soft, almost like mud, inside the wrapping. Also, be careful not to break the root ball by slamming the tree on the ground or bending the trunk away from its roots. That's a recipe for a dead tree.

"How the hell do you stand it up?"
Good question. Our first year, my husband built a large wooden box... which promptly broke, seeing as he neglected to measure the root ball first. This year, we noticed the nursery was using old tires to hold their trees up.We happened to have an old tire, and set it on top of a large tray (this one is actually the bottom to the dog cage we no longer need). But you could probably lay trash bags or plastic in the tire with equal success.

"A tire? That's so ugly!"
Yup. That's what tree skirts are for-- and extra fabric, if your tree skirt is too small.

"But won't it fall over?"
No offense, but have you ever put a cut tree in a tree stand? Those suckers fall over at least twice a season, or at least they did in my house, until Dad gave in and fishing lined it to the wall. (Hi Dad! Love you!) Live trees are heavy with a huge weight at the bottom. Even without the tire, it's unlikely that tree is going anywhere.

"Isn't it messy?"
Hypothetically, it should drop fewer needles than a cut tree... because it's alive. Obviously a fake tree has me beat here. But the root ball, which shouldn't need watering, comes wrapped in burlap, which means you aren't scattering dirt and water across the floor. It's fairly self-contained, and with a tire and plastic added, you should be golden.

 "How do I plant it?"
Good question. I will answer that with pictures in January. :)


  1. I forgot my camera! Your tree looks beautiful. I spend almost $85 every year on a cut tree and would love to have a live one but... I have no place to plant it!

  2. I never even knew you could get live tree's! And planting it after is great!

  3. HA! I'll be back in Jan. We bought a live tree once, and then the freaking thing never got planted. I felt AWFUL!

    Maybe if it goes well for you, I'll try again next year! :)

  4. Momma, you could always plant it at our house. ;)

    Trin, your results may vary. I can't vouch for the great white north. ;)

    Deb, I'll let you know!

  5. I am SO going to do this when I have my own place. :D


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