There are many reasons people want to grow there own Christmas Tree. The one I come across most often is the idea of having a permanent tree at the front of the house on which to hang Christmas Lights during the Festive season, and this trend is becoming more and more common.
In the United States of America there are more outdoor Christmas decorations than indoor, and I have to say. that as long as it is done with restraint and in good taste, I think this is a splendid development.
There are other reason’s for growing your own Christmas Tree. They make very good screening trees in large gardens. They will grow in the most hostile conditions, so if you have a really exposed garden on poor soil and you would like some greenery around you then a Christmas Tree could be just the thing.
The term Christmas Tree is a generalisation for a number of different conifers that are used for the Traditional Yule- tide centre piece. The most common variety is Norway Spruce – Picea Abies – But this has been somewhat superseded in recent years by the Nordman Fir – Abies Nordmanniana due manly to the fact that the Nordman hangs on to it’s needles when it is cut down and brought into a nice centrally heated house, where as the old Norway Spruce does not! I think we have all experienced the impossible task of trying to remove a million little pine needles from a deep pile carpet.
Other spruce varieties which are similar to the Nordman are Fraser Fir and Noble Fir, both of which are sold as Christmas trees, and both of which retain their needles. There is another group of conifers that are now offered as Christmas trees and these are from the Pine family; Pinus Contorta -the lodge pole pine – and Pinus Sylvestris – Scotts Pine. Both these varieties retain their needles but they do not have the close branching and even conical shape of the spruces , the pine Christmas trees are best suited to houses with large rooms and high ceilings.
We will assume that you are going to grow a spruce for your Christmas tree, and I will detail the merits of each variety.
Norway Spruce – Picea Abies: The easiest and quickest of them all, and as you are either going to grow this in a pot to bring in and out of the house or actually out in the garden as a permanent fixture, you don’t have to concern yourself with ‘needle drop.
- If you can buy a small pot grown plant from your local Garden Centre or Nursery – or even online. You should look for a tree that is 15-30 centimetres tall and of a good uniform shape; the pot will be about 13 centimetres in circumference . Try and make sure it has been in the pot for at least a year, you can easily tell this by looking for little roots coming out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot; if you can’t see any then don’t buy it-it has probably just been potted and might let you down.
- If you decide to grow your tree in a pot then the time to pot it on is March -April ; it will be perfectly happy to sit in the garden in it’s little pot until then. Choose a pot that has a capacity of at least 10 litres in volume – even up to 15 litres if you wish; this size will accommodate the tree until it is 120 cm tall.
- A ceramic pot is best as the weight of the pot will help to stop it blowing over too easily, also it gives you the opportunity to choose a pleasing design that will look good indoors and out. Pot you little tree using a soil based compost – John Innes number 3 is ideal, the reason is that the tree will be in the pot for many years; if you use an organic based compost this will decompose over time and leave you tree with not much to grow in, and also a soil based compost is much heavier and will assist with keeping the tree upright when the wind blows!
After care of the tree is very simple; you will need to make sure it does not dry-out during the summer months , and it will have to be fed with a slow acting fertilizer – the easiest way of doing this is to stick the prescribed number of slow release Osmocote ’Feed and Done’ nuggets into the compost each year around about Easter time . Remember, when you do start to bring your tree into the house during the Yule-tide season, you will have to water it at least once during it’s stay.
The above cultural requirements also applies to the other varieties of Spruce should you decide to go for one of these , however. you may find it more difficult to source a young plant of the other varieties without having to purchase maybe a bundle of them from a forestry nursery. Another, important consideration with the other varieties of Spruce is that they are much slower growing that the Norway Spruce and they do have some cultural demands that the Norway doesn’t .
Finally, if you are going to plant your young Spruce in the Garden as a permanent fixture then remember that it will need room to grow. A twenty year old spruce may well grow to seven metres tall and about four metres across; watch out for over head cables !