LOOKING: Barney Hernandez (right) and his wife Sandy search for a Christmas tree. (File photo)
LOOKING: Barney Hernandez (right) and his wife Sandy search for a Christmas tree. (File photo)

Nothing says Christmas like the scent of a fresh-cut tree. But if you’ve ever had the experience of having a Christmas tree turn brown and brittle well before the holidays, you know that selecting the right tree is a bit of an art.


Choosing the perfect tree


Three considerations will help make sure your tree is almost as fresh when you take it down as the day you got it. First, purchase a Christmas tree that has been re-cut (after arrival) and is standing in water. In our warm California climate, this is a must to ensure it will retain its freshness.

Second, look at trees from all sides. You want a nice shape of course, but just as important large patches of brown or bare branches tell you the tree has begun to dry out.

Finally, your tree should be a vibrant green color. Gently pull your hand along a branch. Only a few needles should come off. If you end up with a handful, choose another tree.


Which tree is right for me?


Ever wonder what the differences are between the types of trees on a Christmas tree lot? And why so many kinds are sold? Are some longer-lasting? Are some easier to decorate? Following are the most common types, their characteristics and why they might be best for you.

• Noble fir

Bluish-green needles are about 1-inch long and have a silvery appearance. The short, stiff branches are great for heavier ornaments. Keeps well, and is used for wreaths and garland.

•Silvertip fir

A favorite of decorators and rather scarce. The strong, horizontal branches are layered with plenty of space between them to show off ornaments. The 1-inch needles are green with a bluish tint with silvery tips. Fragrant. Botanically, it is known as red fir.

• Douglas fir

One of the best for fragrance, but unfortunately, dries very quickly. One to 1 1/2-inch blue to dark green needles. Rather airy and open, flexible branches are not good for heavy ornaments.

• Grand fir

Shiny, dark green needles about 1 to 1 1/2-inch long. Grand fir trees are unique in appearance and thick with fragrant foliage.

• Fraser fir

Dark green, flat needles 1/2 to 1-inch long. Very good needle retention, nice scent. Many, sturdy branches.

• Nordman fir

Dark green, 3/4 to 1 1/2-inch, flattened needles are shiny and silvery-blue below. New, and becoming more popular.


Christmas tree care tips


Use a tree stand that holds at least 1 gallon of water. Be sure the water level doesn’t drop below the bottom of the trunk or it will develop a seal that prevents water absorption. Also, add a tree preservative to prolong the life and beauty of your tree. Preservative really makes a difference!

To prevent drying and fire hazards, be sure to keep your tree away from direct heat sources such as direct sun through windows, candles, fireplaces or heating vents.


Arnulfo Bahena, CCNP, is the manager for Armstrong Garden Centers located at 3226 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica. E-mail him your gardening questions to growingdialogue@armstronggarden.com or call (310) 829-6766. Visit Armstrong Garden Centers online at armstronggarden.com.