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Celebrating the holidays with a living Christmas tree

Korey Rockafellow with a decorated living Christmas tree at the Tree Farm in Longmont.
Benita Lee
/
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Korey Rockafellow with a decorated living Christmas tree at the Tree Farm in Longmont.

For those who celebrate Christmas, it's time to pull out the boxes of ornaments and string lights, untangle everything, and hang them onto something. For many, that something is a freshly cut tree. Others love the convenience of artificial trees which never need water and don't drop their needles. But an increasing number of people are choosing another option — a living Christmas tree.

" We still get a lot of calls and a lot of folks that are looking for cut trees, which we don't do at all," says Korey Rockafellow, assistant manager at The Tree Farm in Longmont.

The Boulder County nursery hasn't sold cut trees in years, partly because it demands more labor than they employ during the low season. But they do sell live trees in pots, ready to plant, even in winter.

Rockafellow says the trend towards live Christmas trees is gradually becoming popular.

"A lot of people ask if they can rent them, which we don't do, but it's a good idea," he said.

"Yeah, if you've got the space in your yard, I think it's awesome."

Living Christmas trees in pots at the Tree Farm nursery in Longmont, Colorado.
Benita Lee
/
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Living Christmas trees in pots at the Tree Farm nursery in Longmont, Colorado.

According to Rockafellow, their live Christmas tree customers are seeking something different.

"I think it's the experience more than anything. You know, they want to have something alive that they're not killing, right? They feel, well, I would feel bad about cutting down a tree and then just throwing it out," he said.

"So this way you're actually saving a tree. It's more expensive than a cut tree is, but then you get that tree in your yard for, you know, the rest of your life, ideally."

People who are used to cut trees know that they need constant watering.

"It's on life support, right? So that water is its life source. And once you stop watering it, it's gonna die," said Rockafellow.

But, for the live trees, it's a different situation.

"For living trees, I'd recommend giving it a really good drink a couple of days before bringing it into the house. And then you bring it in, and then it's good until you plant it, and then once you plant it, another really, really good drink," he said.

But that doesn't mean live trees don't have special care requirements.

"It's the one major drawback to them, you can have them inside for five to seven days, probably any longer than that you run the risk of them breaking dormancy, starting to grow."

In addition, Rockafellow cautions that living trees need to stay cool to keep them in their natural winter, dormant state.

"Like an unheated garage is a perfect place to store them while you're, you know, before Christmas, a little bit before Christmas you bring it inside ideally, you know away from major heat sources, windows, you know if you can keep the sun off of them a little bit that can help too. And then shortly after Christmas, you know plant them outside."

The Tree Farm nursery in Longmont, Colorado, doesn't sell cut Christmas trees. They are finding more people interested in living trees that can be planted outside after the holidays.
Benita Lee
/
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
The Tree Farm nursery in Longmont, Colorado, doesn't sell cut Christmas trees. They are finding more people interested in living trees that can be planted outside after the holidays.

Rockafellow suggests digging a hole before Christmas to get it ready for planting the tree after the holidays.

When picking a tree, there are lots of things to consider. It's kind of like getting a puppy. You want to make sure you know how big it's going to get.

"Really the big thing is having the space in your yard. If you've got a small yard, I'd steer you away from, like the Austrian pines, the standard Colorado spruce. Those are going to get big, whereas there are varieties of trees that are smaller," he said.

"So there's Montrose spire, White spruce that works really well in a smaller area. There's a couple of pines that stay skinnier, a couple of blue spruces. The Columnar blue spruce, you know, it's going to get 10 to 15 foot wide after 30 years."

And if you like your trees festive, Rockafellow says bring on the holiday cheer.

"Decorate it the same way you would even a fake tree. I mean, the branches are still going to be flexible and pliable when you get it. You know, don't go too crazy. If you break off a couple of branches, that's no big deal. But yeah, just the same as any other Christmas tree."

Rockafellow says he knows at least one couple who comes in every year to buy a live Christmas tree.

"They know the deal. They keep it inside for the right amount of time. They're caring for it the right way and then they get it in the ground. You enjoy it for the Christmas, and then you'll have that memory for years in the future," he said.

If you want to start a new tradition, a live tree may be one way to go.

This story was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

Benita Lee is a reporter at KGNU in Boulder, Colorado.