Your Christmas Tree’s Days of Giving Are Not Over

If you planted pansies in your garden last fall, use branches of your discarded Christmas tree to provide the plants with some winter protection. Cutting the branches near the stem and spreading a single layer over the pansies will provide light shade, thus reducing chances of winter injury if we don’t get sufficient snow. Next spring, remove the branches just as the plants resume growing. Pansies are winter-hardy, but providing them with light winter shade will improve their spring color and help them flower. 

The stem of the Christmas tree can be cut and added to the woodpile for burning in the wood stove or fireplace next winter. Or it can be pounded into the ground and used for training clematis or pole beans in the garden. Clematis can easily climb on the trunk of a cut Christmas tree, especially if you leave stubs of the branches.

I recycle my Christmas tree by placing it near one of my bird feeders. The tree with its many branches provides shelter for small birds, which is especially useful if your feeders are frequented by birds of prey such as hawks and larger birds such as blackbirds. As added food, I sometimes throw popcorn, without salt or butter, in the branches. The branches also serve as a good place to hang pinecones smeared with peanut butter and birdseed.

Some municipalities collect Christmas trees and turn them into wood chips and call it mulch. Avoid spreading such wood chips where annual plants are to be planted next spring or around shallow-rooted species such as azaleas, rhododendrons and blueberries. Wood chips that are not composted will rob nitrogen from the soil, thus causing the plants to starve. Raw wood chips can be used around deep-rooted, well-established plants.


More on Oaks and Leaves

Q: Respectfully, your information in your column of Dec. 23, Speaking of Oak Trees, is not complete unless you mean in the state of Maryland. The Angel Oak, a member of the Wye Oak family, is located outside of Charleston on Johns Island, SC. It’s actually located right down the street from my cousins.

It keeps its leaves year-round.

–Michael S. Smith, Dunkirk


A: Thank you for your interest. I should have specified northern oaks in my article.

Many mature oaks south of northern Virginia do retain some but not all of their leaves — as do juvenile oaks. I have a cherry bark oak in my yard that is about 100 years old that retains some of its leaves most of the winter, but the majority drop in the fall.

I should have also mentioned that live oaks retain their leaves all winter. The Angel Oak is a live oak, not a white oak. Live oak trees do not grow north of Richmond, Virginia.


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