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GIFT GUIDE: Consider a living Christmas tree this year

Chris Calvert of Marble Falls loads a living Christmas tree into the back of his truck. Real trees add a special touch to the holidays, but there are several things you need to know before bringing one home. File photo


MARBLE FALLS — If you’re looking for a new family tradition or simply looking for a more environmentally friendly option to the holidays this year, how about adding a living Christmas tree to your decor.

A living Christmas tree is, well, just that: a living evergreen you bring inside, decorate for Christmas and then take outside and plant after all the gifts are unwrapped and the fruit cake is consumed. Now, before your rush out and buy a living Christmas tree, there are a few things you need to consider.

First, you want to select a tree that can thrive in the Highland Lakes’ climate during the winter, and more important, summer months. Check with a local nursery such as Backbone Valley Nursery, 4201 FM 1980 in Marble Falls, or another plant specialist to get some help in selecting the correct species.

And you don’t necessarily have to stick with the typical idea of a Christmas tree such as a pine variety, though there are a few that thrive in this climate. If you’re not afraid of being a little different, then consider a Texas native species such as a mountain laurel or something along that line.

Now, before rushing that new living Christmas tree inside, slow down a bit. If you bring a tree used to the cooler outdoor temperatures inside, you might shock it a bit. In fact, during the winter months, trees, even many evergreens, are in a dormant stage. By quickly introducing it to the warmer indoor temperatures, the tree could resume growing.

So begin by getting the tree used to indoor temperatures by keeping it in the unheated garage or enclosed porch for three to four days. You’ll also want to do the same thing before moving it outside as well to get it ready for the cooler outdoor climate.

Before moving it inside, you also want to give the tree a good hard look for insects and insect egg masses. For evergreens, pick up an anti-dessicant or anti-wilt product to keep needle loss to a minimum.

Place the tree in one of the coolest areas of the house and away from heat ducts. A good idea is to have the tree root ball in a galvanized tub and stabilize it with bricks or rocks. Put some mulch around the root ball and water as necessary (but don’t over do it).

With a living Christmas tree, you should only keep it inside for seven to 10 days and then began transitioning it outdoors. Be sure to ask your nursery specialist the best way to plant the tree once you’re ready to make it a permanent part of your landscape.