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Christmas Tree Roundup

The most beautiful tree of all, yours

Every tree has a story. Whether it’s the tree, the trimmings or the decorator, you can bet your family, friends and neighbors would be happy to tell you why they chose their own special tree.
    Live or artificial?
    Thirty-four percent of Maryland households buy a real Christmas tree each year, according to the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
    That’s my family tradition.
    I grew up with long-needle white pines that had to fit my dad’s strict standards: tall, full and bushy. But those trees lost their needles at alarming rates. I remember Mom muttering under her breath at Easter about finding needles and buying that artificial tree next year.
    Now, she has defected. She decorates two artificial trees.
    Hubby, teenage sons and I choose a blue spruce, adding blue twinkling lights and blue ornaments to enhance its distinctive color.
    Sister in New York opts for a table-top tree to accommodate limited apartment space.
    A friend decorates her outdoor pine trees with popcorn-strung garland and birdseed bells to share Christmas with feathered friends.
    Another friend prefers a rugged, artificial, ginormous fir that stands in his living room all year. He adjusts the trimmings according to the seasons and holidays.
    Christmas trees are a big export business in Michigan, West Virginia and Ohio.
    Maryland has its own growing Christmas tree industry, involving more than 125 growers who oversee 4.2 million planted trees, 368,000 of them harvested yearly. Ninety-eight percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms. Most are harvested for you, but some specialize in cut-your-own Christmas trees. Calvert County has one, and Anne Arundel five.
    Yet only 20 to 30 percent of trees sold in Maryland are home-grown, according to Bay Gardener Frank Gouin. For our sake, he wishes the numbers were higher.
    “A fresh-cut Christmas tree has a column of water down to the bottom of the trunk,” Gouin says. For longevity and safety, he advises buying the freshest tree you can get.
    The Douglas fir is the most resilient, Gouin advises, while Frasier firs — one of the most popular trees — are also the most flammable. Frasier’s are on his don’t-sell list, and the state of Maryland’s don’t-buy list for public spaces.
    “Once you’ve got your tree home, make a fresh cut and place the trunk in warm water, assuring it a continuous supply of water moving up the stem,” Gouin says.
    Forget adding aspirin or sugar to the water to keep the tree fresh; neither work.