DANIEL WEITOISH: It originated from bringing something that reminds us of life into our homes during the winter. One of the things that really sell that living being to us is the scent that they put off. So that might be something you consider. Fraser firs in particular, excellent scent through much of their life whenever they're inside your home.
A live tree is something that you can purchase, you can bring inside, and then it goes back out in your yard, into your landscape. Having that live tree that you've had for a couple of weeks inside and you can take it out and plant it in your yard, it's something to remember.
You might consider acclimating it to some of the outdoor temperatures-- keeping it in your garage for a day or two, letting that root ball cool down some. And then after that, that root ball, it's still alive, and that's the most vulnerable part of the tree. And so if you can't plant it immediately, which can be challenging or even impossible if the ground's frozen, you're going to want something to protect that root ball. Using mulch or compost to heal that root ball in and keep it comfortable and the temperature kind of equilibrated through the rest of the winter is really important.
As far as choosing a tree that's a good choice, like a quality tree, not just the species that you're seeking, there are a couple of things that you can look for. You want to be looking for any kind of dead needles that are already beginning to fall off, particularly on the interior. So if you looked into the interior of the tree and you see that many of the branches are already beginning to drop needles, that's a tree that might have been cut a little too early.
These trees still need to operate as if they're alive. They still have to draw water up through their stem, and they'll release it out through their needles. But if the trunk has been damaged, either in transport or at the time of cutting, that could affect their ability to uptake water, and you're going to have a harder time holding onto those needles.
I tend to shy away from the artificial trees. Even if you use that tree for much of your life, that's still plastic that has to go somewhere and takes a very long time to break down. I would encourage you to not worry too much about your carbon footprint when it comes to bringing a tree in if you treat the end of life of that tree appropriately.
Many of your municipalities have options for Christmas-tree recycling. They will collect your tree. They'll chip it. They'll then compost that material and maybe put it out in the spring or the following fall so that you can use it for mulch.
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Daniel Weitoish, an arborist at Cornell Botanic Gardens, discusses the green options for your Christmas tree this year.