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"Buying a 'Real' Christmas Tree is a Natural Choice," by the Whistling Gardener

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Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

As gardeners, the concept of “going natural” is nothing new. Whatever our reasons, whenever practical we tend to shy away from synthetics and instead choose products that are natural.

In the case of Christmas trees, we have the same choices - buying an artificial tree or buying a real tree. Here are some things to consider before you make up your mind…

Artificial trees are made from petroleum products (which are non-renewable) and contain plastics and metals, such as lead. They will not decompose once they are disposed of and normally have a useful life of six to ten years. They are manufactured in a country far, far away and consequently there are transportation costs to consider. If they catch on fire they can potentially release toxic fumes.

On the plus side, for people with allergies they can be a practical substitute for the real thing and they are quick and easy to set up, so there is a lot less hassle. But that’s about it in my book.

On the other hand, real trees have a whole host of benefits both for the environment and for us as well. Here is what the National Christmas Tree Association has to say about real trees…

Christmas tree farms stabilize soil, protect water supplies, and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts. Often, Christmas trees are grown on soils that could not support other crops.

As a benefit to the atmosphere, real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases, emitting fresh oxygen. One acre of Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people. With approximately one million acres producing Christmas trees in the United States that translates into oxygen for 18 million people every day. For every real Christmas tree harvested, three seedlings are planted in its place.”

Real trees are usually disposed of not in landfills but by being chipped up for landscaping or put into lakes and ponds for smaller fish to survive. There are about 15,000 Christmas tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full or part time in the industry.

Studies done at the University of Surrey in the UK also suggest “there is a lot of evidence that people recover more quickly from stress and mental fatigue when exposed to natural, as opposed to built-up and ‘fake’ environments.” Adding a real tree to our home environment can have this calming effect. And let’s not forget the pleasing fragrance that a fresh cut evergreen tree emits.

These next two weeks are prime time to go find the “perfect” tree for your home. Garden centers are well stocked with assorted sizes of mostly Nobel Firs, Fraser Firs, and Douglas Firs. Always make a fresh cut at the base of the tree before you place it in a stand that will hold water. You will be surprised how much water your tree will absorb in the first week. When the season is over, be sure and recycle your tree.

While I realize that for the most part I am preaching to the choir, hopefully some of you will take to heart this information and consider buying a real tree this year. It’s a decision that is good for the environment, good for you, and good for the tree that was raised on a farm with the sole purpose of ending up in a family’s home this time of year.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

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