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Volume 13, Issue 47 ~ November 24 - November 30, 2005
The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Pick a Fire-Safe Christmas Tree

A few simple steps help ensure your tree is fresh and green

The Maryland State Fire Marshal has declared that only Scots pine, Colorado spruce or the Lincoln strain of Douglas fir can be set up as live Christmas trees in public buildings. The species were selected based on research conducted at my Deale Farm, Upakrik Farm, and at the Cheltenham Fire Training Center from 1995 to 1998.

The trees were ignited after two and four weeks storage at room temperature. All had been stored in tree stands, with and without water.

White pine Christmas trees generated excessive smoke. The least combustible tree was the Douglas fir, while the most combustible tree was the Fraser fir.

The safest Christmas tree is freshly cut and stored in the shade with the stem in water until it is brought indoors.

If you are choosing your tree at a local tree lot, buy it as early in the season as possible, during daylight hours. Bend the branches and pull the needles. If the branches break and the needles pull free, go elsewhere.

Transport the tree inside the car or trunk or protected in the box of the truck. Don’t tie it on top of the car; this method of transportation will cause excessive drying.

When you get the tree home, care for it by cutting an inch or more from the base of the stem and placing it immediately in a pail of warm water so that it can absorb as much water as it can hold. Store the tree in the shade and with ample water until you bring it indoors.

Before it comes in, cut off another inch from the base of the trunk. Erect your tree in a stand that can hold a gallon or more water. To extend the life of the tree, add Floral-Life as recommended for keeping cut flowers fresh. Pennies, Aspirin, Karo syrup and roofing nails added to the water do not extend the tree’s life.

Few Blueberries Here

Q Our Little Princess Spirea were planted in an area that appears to be too wet as some died. The landscaper wants to replace them with low-bush blueberry. The pH of the soil is 6.5 to 7, and from what I have read it needs to be much lower for these plants. My conclusion is that this would not be an acceptable replacement. Would you agree? I thought I would plant some perennials like lobelia that would be more suited to the soil conditions.

—Lois Tuwiner

A In my earlier years, I managed a 500-acre blueberry farm. The farm in New Hampshire produced an average of 125 tons of blueberries each year.

I can assure you that you will not grow blueberries at a pH above 5.0. Furthermore, low-bush blueberries do not perform well in southern Maryland. They are not heat tolerant. In testing cultivars of high-bush blueberries, I have found only a few that are heat tolerant.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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