The gardener in me enjoys bringing a live tree indoors for decorating during the holiday season. Although I have many different types of ornaments, I keep the decorations on my live tree simple, enjoying the color, scent and shape of a large evergreen brought inside as a centerpiece of the home at Christmas.

Cedar trees, which are actually members of the juniper family, are easy to locate in the Ozarks, typically have a nice pyramidal shape, and emote a nice woodsy scent when brought indoors. For many in the Ozarks, Christmas would not be Christmas without a cedar tree adorned with ornaments. I have Christmas memories of decorated cedar trees in classrooms and churches and in my childhood home.

A cedar tree during the holidays does portray a particular look and feel, but they do not last for more than about two weeks when brought indoors. Cedars dry out quickly. Their branches are also somewhat lightweight making it difficult to place ornaments on the outer stems.

In the Ozarks many “cut your own” tree farms have Scotch pine and white pine that can be picked out and cut down or simply purchased to put up indoors during the holidays. White pine has long, soft needles that are reminiscent of traditional evergreen garland. The white pine can be lovely when decorated; the branches are spaced far apart showing the brown trunk of the tree. The downfall of this tree is that the branches are light on the ends making it difficult to hold heavy ornaments.

Scotch pine is not a tree that is native to the Ozarks, but this evergreen endures the heat and humidity of the Ozarks making it ideal for tree farms in the Southern Midwest. Scotch pine has very stiff branches which make it ideal for decorating. Scotch pine does not have a remarkable scent, but it does have soft needles with good needle retention.

The “traditional” look of live Christmas trees or artificial trees that are made to look like real trees is found in Fraser or balsam fir trees. These trees do not grow naturally in the Ozarks, and because they do not like a lot of heat and humidity, Fraser and balsam fir trees are not grown on Ozark tree farms.

Fraser and balsam fir trees have a similar look with pyramidal shape, dark green needles on branches that protrude with many offshoots for hanging ornaments. Fraser fir is a native in the Southeast Appalachian regions. The needle retention for Fraser firs is very good.

Balsam fir is a native in Northern New England states as wells as the upper Midwest. Balsam fir has “the smell of Christmas” with a balsam scent that lasts for several weeks. The balsam fir does not have good needle retention, so you’ll constantly be cleaning up fallen needles.

If you want a “traditional” looking Christmas tree with good needle retention and “the smell of Christmas,” try a live tree that is a Fraser/balsam cross evergreen. These trees are not grown in the Ozarks, but they make an excellent tree for indoor use at Christmas.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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