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Live Christmas Trees and More Evergreen Ideas

Most of us want to be environmentally friendly and reduce waste, so choosing a live Christmas tree that can be planted after the holidays seems smarter than the disposable kind. Caring for a live tree is not always so smart, however, because of the work involved and the possibility that the tree won't survive after all. Nevertheless, enough hard-core gardeners persist in buying and planting live trees during the holidays that author Lindsay Bond Totten provides these tips to improve their chances.

First of all, one week is the maximum for keeping a live tree indoors. Otherwise, the buds may start to swell and your specimen probably won't survive until spring. Don't bring the tree indoors until a few days before Christmas.

Next, consider the obvious. Namely, that the ground might be so frozen it will be impossible to dig a hole for your tree. Better dig the hole now and cover the backfill soil with a tarp.

Assuming you're determined to go through with the experience, make sure you purchase a tree that was freshly dug in late fall, not a leftover tree from the spring that has been languishing in the nursery all summer. Also consider the growth potential of the species you're purchasing. You'll need enough space. Choose a location that the tree won't outgrow as it matures.

Place the root ball in a large tub, start watering and continue to keep the rootball moist but not saturated after it comes indoors.

Consider that your home is a super-heated environment with minimal light--not exactly ideal conditions for a tree. Accordingly, pick a spot that's cool and brightly lit to display your living specimen. Avoid heating vents or space heaters. Turn the thermostat down as low as you can stand at night. These precautions will help keep the needles moist. Mist the needles, but not after you trim with Christmas lights--you don't want to cause a short circuit!

Plant promptly after Christmas so your tree won't have to shiver in cold weather and freeze its rootball.

If fresh evergreen trimmings are all you need, here's a more practical solution: buy a high-quality evergreen tree from your local nursery next spring and plant when the soil and temperatures are more hospitable. Gently prune and trim the branches before next Christmas and deck the halls.