Get Growing with the Master Gardeners: Christmas tree choices

PHOTO COURTESY OF Bill Cook, Michigan State University, Above is a closeup of the two-tone needles of the Fraser fir.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This feature is answered by members of the Lycoming County Master Gardeners. Readers who wish to submit a question to be answered by these experts may email it to Questions also should include the reader’s full name, phone number and town of residence. Submitting a question does not guarantee that it will be answered in the Sun-Gazette’s Sunday Region section.)

WEEK 4: What is your favorite type

of Christmas tree?

Linda B., Montoursville: “Favorite Christmas tree … artificial, until a few years ago. Now I use my Norfolk island pine house plant. I just put lights on it.”

Carol M., Muncy Valley: “My favorite Christmas tree is the Fraser fir. The needles are soft to the touch. They are green on the top and silver underneath, giving it a two-tone effect. It has a very pleasant aroma, and the needles last a long time before falling off. I’ve heard them referred to as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of Christmas trees.”

Kathy L., South Williamsport: “One of my favorite perenials is the astilbe. I have a large area of shade in my garden and astible thrive there. The flowers are tall plumes that tower over attractive foliage. They bloom in late spring and last for over a month. Common colors are pink, red, white and lavender. I was thrilled to find a peach-colored variety at a local garden center last week. An added bonus is that it is very easy to propagate these flowers. They can be cut in the fall and used to expand your garden or shared with others.”

Bethany M., Montoursville: “The best Christmas tree, in terms of fire safety, is one that’s fresh. The best way to ensure freshness is to harvest or cut it down yourself. Also, add a little lemon-lime soda to the water, about 1 part 7-Up, for example, to 3 parts water will keep the tree perky. Add about one cup every few days. The citric acid and sugar helps both trees and cut flowers. You can buy a live tree to plant but make sure it spends no more than four days inside, and start digging its hole now before the ground freezes. But note that those trees can weigh several hundred pounds — a good thing if you need some help working off all those holiday cookies!”

Barb L., Williamsport: “My favorite Christmas tree is a pine. It smells wonderful and the needles don’t prick your fingers when you decorate the tree.”

Karl Z., Williamsport: “A couple of my favorites would have to be the balsam fir and the Fraser fir. The balsam gets the award for best ‘Christmassy’ scent, which can perfume a whole room. It sheds very little and supports dark green needles that slope upward to a slender top. The Fraser supports a pair of silvery stripes on the underside of each needle. Frasers have sturdy, upturned branches that are ideal for showcasing ornaments and they also retain their needles better than other varieties.”