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Thu, Aug. 22

Avoid guilt by planting a living Christmas tree

Courtesy photo
Living trees like this Colorado Spruce make great Christmas trees for indoor use, and then can be planted outdoors after the new year.

Courtesy photo Living trees like this Colorado Spruce make great Christmas trees for indoor use, and then can be planted outdoors after the new year.

It was fun seeing everyone at the Prescott courthouse plaza enjoying Wednesday's look at the White House Christmas tree. I was anticipating a whoppin' big tree, but it was even larger than I had imagined! It primed me for the festive season ahead, despite our recent balmy temperatures. Also, as I mentioned last week, my family celebrated the 27th anniversary of our Christmas Wonderland shop with all the holiday glitter, lights, and ornaments. Well, it was so warm that I wore a short-sleeved shirt and short pants the entire weekend. I'm ready for some cooler weather so it feels like the holidays and so I can dress accordingly!

Because of our fragile economy, this may be the year to get double-duty out of your Christmas tree. You can celebrate the holidays and add to the value of your property by using a living tree. Conveniently, winter just happens to be the perfect time to add a new tree to your landscape. Not only will you enhance your surroundings, you will prevent the eradication of another tree from a field somewhere.

Over the years I've sold all types of living trees for use as Christmas trees - even dormant fruit trees. Any tree can be decorated and used as holiday decor. The most popular living Christmas trees are Colorado spruces, with their perfectly layered shape; Austrian pines, which look like mini Ponderosa pines; and Alberta spruces - cute, cuddly, and bushy. These are the most popular, but I have at least a dozen different evergreens that are good as Christmas trees.

Here are a few simple tips for successfully maintaining and planting a living tree.

Living Christmas trees can be safely kept indoors one to two weeks. Trees used for outdoor decorations can be kept in their nursery pots for months until planted.

At the garden center we water these trees every 2 to 3 days; you should do the same at home. Once the tree is indoors, situate it at least 10 feet from a wood stove or fireplace. Do not place the tree where heat from a furnace duct will blow directly on it, and avoid placing it in a sunny window. Protect trees from drying out by spraying the needles with "Wilt Stop Plant Protector," a clear polymer anti-transpirant. This product is very effective in slowing the tree's loss of water through its needles and greatly increases survivability. Plus, it keeps the tree looking vibrant, shiny and new.

Check the tree daily to be sure the soil is moist. This is very important! Ice cubes are an ideal way to water an indoor living tree. The cubes act like an artificial drip system as they slowly melt, cooling and watering the roots. A vinyl saucer or plastic sheet under the tree will protect flooring from disfiguring water damage. Decorative lights should be the small miniature type, as they do not emit a lot of heat. Do NOT use spray snow that adheres to the needles.

The busiest shopping days for both cut and living trees are the first two weekends after Thanksgiving. Wise shoppers get out earlier than that for the best selection of the nicest trees. Choose your tree early but keep it outdoors and enjoy the evergreen foliage next to the house. I have two free handouts that will help you manage your tree indoors and outside. The first page tells how to take care of trees used indoors; the second explains exactly how to plant them after the holiday season.

Some of you thought I was crying wolf about the new ordinance proposed by Chino Valley's water resource director, Mark Holms. However, I was gratified to have stirred quite a few of you. What is being proposed is: no outdoor tap water use for commercial and industrial concerns and for multi-family dwellings. You will not even be allowed to wash your car in front of your home unless you use self-harvested rainwater. Most insidious is the open-ended "drought status" buried deep in the ordinance. It gives dictatorial power to the water resource director. This new law will affect all property owners - even those who own their own wells. Also, those of you with homes built since 2004 will experience heavy government restrictions.

If you want a copy of the ordinance, please shoot me an e-mail request at You will receive the 88-page ordinance along with my summary points. Read your copy, then forward it to a friend.

The venue for the council study session of the ordinance has been changed to the Chino Valley Senior Center, 31 Butterfield Road; that's on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. Join us or be left high and dry.

Unless we are able to change the council's mind, the ordinance has the four votes needed to pass. Writing a letter to the council expressing your concerns will have an impact; talking to council members at the grocery store or at church would be even better. These folks truly care - even love their community - so remember to present your opinions in a respectful manner.

Don't forget my free gardening classes, held at 9:30 each Saturday morning. This Saturday, Nov. 14, I will teach "Mountain Landscape Designs Made Easy," and on Nov. 21, the topic is "Proper Winter Care for Trees & Shrubs." Join me for a lot of practical, timely local landscape tips. The entire class schedule is available at

Until next week, I'll see you in the Christmas shop at the garden center.

Throughout the week Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, and can be contacted through Ken says, "My personal mission is to help local homeowners garden better in our mountain landscapes."

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