The debate over a real vs. an artificial Christmas tree took a new turn last week as I shopped with my siblings at the relatively-new Ikea in Merriam the day after Thanksgiving.
We were pretty stunned by the low prices on many items — especially since most of them were not made in China. But I was a little puzzled when my sister pointed to a Christmas tree and said: “Look, Annie, that tree is only $59!”
“It’s plastic,” I responded, not the least bit attracted.
“But it’s real plastic,” she returned.
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She was right: This was not a $59 tree pretending, as most fakes do, to be real. The Ikea tree didn’t even try.
If I shook my head at Celine then, she shook hers at me that night as we shopped at her neighborhood Westlake Ace. She was surprised to find me behind her at the check-out with a funnel attached to a long pole, a gimmick for watering the Christmas tree without having to bend down to the level of the tree stand.
“You’re going to buy that?” she asked incredulously. I admit that I walked by the display after initially showing her the funnel. It is one of those types of products that she or I notice and then accuse the other: “If you’d thought of this, we would be rich!” But as I walked around the store, I thought of another use for the long-handled funnel — namely, filling a cramped platform birdfeeder whose opening is too awkward for my birdfeed container.
Two potential uses for the funnel — combined with the fact that this was an American-made product — propelled me to the check-out with the $8 item. Even though I was going to be less wealthy by the purchase, I was at least advancing the fortunes of a fellow American who had been inventive.
So far I have used the funnel for birdfeed once and with success! Not sure I'll trust it with the Christmas tree, though. I took my annual December trip to Hillside Nursery’s root cellar, cool and fragrantly full of REAL fresh Christmas trees, and picked out my Charlie Brown variety. (The nursery has even smaller trees than usual this year. It would be easy to make a forest of Christmas trees of varying heights in the house, something that designer Brian Patrick Flynn says is a good option especially if you don’t have lots of windows or a fireplace mantel to decorate. I love it.)
As always, I put out the plea to shop at local Christmas tree farms, tree lots and garden centers for a real Christmas tree. Yes, Linus, at least for now, they really do still “make wooden Christmas trees.” This is Christmas shopping that is exhilarating. It’s true that you will have to water the real tree, but its charms — especially for gardeners and other nature lovers — can’t be beat.
Adrian Higgins, garden writer for the Washington Post, has this to say about choosing and preserving a real tree:
“I’m a dyed-in-the-wool fan of real trees, typically a short-needled Fraser fir. The husbandry of a cut tree comes down to simple hydration. The sooner you find one on a lot, the earlier you can take care of its watering needs. I follow the same ritual year after year. This weekend, I will go to a local church lot, look for a symmetrical tree and make sure there are no splits in the trunk and that the needles seem plump. I drop it a few inches to see whether green needles fall in any alarming number.
“If it passes muster, I decline the offer to have the end cut off, cart the tree home and then remove the bottom branches to give about nine inches of clear trunk. I use a bow saw to take off the bottom inch or two and place the tree in a large pail of water on the porch, where it hydrates for a week outdoors. Before bringing it inside, I make a fresh cut at the base, and then it’s a matter of making sure that the water level indoors doesn’t drop below the trunk. The tree then lasts into the new year with no danger of drying out and becoming a fire hazard.”
Because my tree is little, so is the stand. I think trying to water from on high with the funnel would be overkill, causing the stand to overflow and drench the tree’s battenburg-lace skirt. Perhaps my sister got the last laugh — if not the plastic Christmas tree.
Christmas tree farms
4C Christmas Tree Farm, 11229 Creed, Wichita; 316-684-0464
Source: Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association, kctga.com