Monthly Archives: November 2014

Christmas Trees: Fir? Balsam? Pine? What are the Differences?

December 012

Our Christmas trees arrived earlier this week, and the greenhouse is becoming its winter-y Christmas-y forest-y self.  Whether you are a veteran live-tree customer, or this is your first time shopping for a “real” tree, here’s a quick summary of the different varieties you can choose from.

The Scotch Pine is the tree that many of us grew up with.  It has prickly needles and strong branches.  It is fantastic for holding heavy lights and decorations. It is not a very fragrant tree so if you that fresh Christmas tree smell is something you need to have, this tree may not be the best choice for you.

The White Pine is most notably, the softest of the Christmas trees, with very long needles.  It holds those needles very well for the length of the Christmas season.  The branches on the White Pine are quite light, and will not be able to support heavy ornaments. The White Pine is perfect for decorating with garland and lights.

The trees of the fir family are the more popular choices for Christmas decorating.  All the fir trees have branching right to the trunk of the tree, giving a much fuller look than the pine trees.

The Noble Fir is a perfect “not perfect” tree, if you prefer a tree with a little more character.  When these trees are grown, they are not sheared heavily, so the branches have more irregularities.  These irregularities are great for providing little nooks to showcase your special ornaments! While not traditional to most Manitobans the Noble Fir is quickly gaining popularity due to its unique and beautiful look

The Balsam Fir is a thicker tree than the Noble, because it is heavily sheared while it is growing.  The shearing process encourages the tree to produce more branches (like pinching a Basil plant). It has fantastic needle retention, a straight trunk and is very fragrant.  For all these reasons, it is our most popular Christmas tree!

The Fraser Fir again has thick branching, is fragrant and has good needle retention.  This tree is unique, though in that the undersides of the needles have a beautiful silver colour! The Fraser Fir is noted for having the best needle retention of all the trees. While similar in look to the Balsam it differs in that the branches are stronger and slightly sparser, leaving plenty of room for ornaments.

The Nordman Fir, like all the rest, is fragrant, thick branching and good needle retention.  What you’ll notice right away about this tree though, is that it is a very dark green.

Once you’ve selected your tree, there is one key point to remember before you bring it into your house; make sure you cut off the bottom ¼ -inch of the trunk. You can simply ask us and we will gladly do it for you before we tie it to your roof.  This will open up the bottom of the trunk to allow it to absorb as much water as it can.  If you provide your tree with adequate water, never letting it become dry, your Christmas tree can easily last up to 4 weeks!

An added tip: if you’d like to refresh the scent of your Christmas tree before a gathering, fill a spray bottle with water, and give the needles a good spray!

Planting Christmas Bulbs

Do you think of houseplants when you think of Christmas décor? At first, it may seem easy to relegate them to background status, behind the traditional boughs, wreaths, and of course, the tree.  But Christmas bulbs are a great way to incorporate some extra colour and life to your Christmas décor.  Amaryllis, Narcissi, and Christmas Cacti are the traditional choices, but recently I’ve noticed a lot of Orchids popping up as centerpieces and table toppers.

Winter Bulbs

Amaryllis and Narcissi (Paperwhites) typically appear with the fall bulb displays.  I usually don’t think of them when I’m picking my tulips and crocuses, but it would seem that I’m not the only one, as there are still plenty to choose from even now!  Both require between 6-8 weeks from the time of planting until they reach their peak bloom. That means now is the best time to plant! Amaryllis and Paperwhites both are easy to start, and only require minimal care; water and sunlight is sufficient!  The only additional tip for growing Amaryllis, is that the stalk will grow towards the light, so it is important to carefully turn the container periodically.

Christmas Cacti are so-called because they typically bloom around Christmas time! Their blooming is dependent on the amount of sunlight they receive, rather than any particular efforts on the part of the gardener.  As long as the plant receives plenty of bright indirect light, and the right amount of water, it should bloom for you.  An important note about Christmas Cacti is that they are tropical cacti, rather than desert cacti, which means that they benefit from regular watering.  Specific timing will depend on the humidity of the house, but we typically water most of our houseplants every 10-14 days. Watering them when the top inch of the soil is dry is a good schedule to maintain.

This year, at our house I’m excited to use my moderate crafty skills and am going to make a table top orchid display, something like this:

Orchid Centrepiece  I’m thinking a few white orchids, with red and white sparkled ornaments.  Luckily there’s plenty of time to work out the details!!