One of the many wonderful Edsel & Eleanor Ford House (Ford House) traditions is decorating for the holidays. Everyone pitches in and, in a few days, the House and Landscape is transformed into a beautiful display for our guests. One tradition is placing two Christmas Trees in the courtyards at the Gate Lodge, which are visible from Lake Shore Road.
Recently, I went “shopping” for these trees…for a gardener; this is not a chore but a grand adventure. I am able to select the perfect tree at the most beautiful places and meet the wonderful people that operate Christmas Tree Farms. There are a number of Christmas Tree Farms in the region. Check the following for one near you:
Before going on this adventure, I had to answer a couple questions:
- What species of tree am I looking for?
- How big should it be (both height and width)?
Ford House tradition answered the first question, we always place Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens glauca) in the courtyards. However, there are several suitable species including a number of pine, spruce, and fir trees. The resources listed above can help you choose if you do not already have a favorite.
The answer to the second question is a bit more complicated. The courtyards allow for a large tree; however space is limited because equipment cannot be used. The tree has to be hand-placed by the gardeners, so the tree size is limited. I found some beautiful 15 foot tall specimens for this year. These trees are “unsheared” meaning they have a very natural appearance with great branch spacing for hanging lights and ornaments. Regularly sheared trees are beautifully shaped but may be too tightly branched for hanging ornaments.
In addition to species, size and shape (sheared or unsheared), I kept in mind a few other items that may help you in picking the perfect tree. First, look for straight trunks; this will help when placing the tree. Since I was selecting more than one tree, I also needed to keep in mind symmetry and color. If you think all evergreens are the same color, you are in for a surprise when you visit the tree farm. The shades of green are dramatic! And not all blue spruce have the waxy coating that makes it blue.
Our trees are for the outdoor display, so keeping them watered is not as important as it is for the one in your home. The plants are still drawing water through the trunk and out to the needles and will dry out quickly in the warm, low humidity environment of your home. Check the water in the tree stand EVERYDAY!
Potted trees are also available. This is a great way to stretch your money by having a nice tree to decorate for the holidays that can be planted to enhance your landscape. Keep in mind that your tree has been inside a warm house and will need to be acclimated to the outdoor temperature before planting. This can be accomplished by moving it to an unheated garage or shed. After a week or so, you can plant it, assuming the ground is not yet frozen. Thoroughly water the root zone after planting so it does not suffer from winter burn.
For information about the Ford House and its holiday activities, visit www.fordhouse.org.
May your days be merry and bright!