Water's key to keeping trees in tip-top shape

Despite the prolonged dry spell of summer past, and predictions to the contrary, I see no shortage of Christmas trees at the regular local outlets.

Saturday, 15th December 2018, 14:10 pm
Updated Friday, 7th December 2018, 11:20 am
Theres no shortage of trees to choose from this Christmas, but care is needed to keep them in good health throughout the festivities. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

This is all down to the growers, who have done remarkably well in sustaining the crop through those weeks of drought.

Now the onus is passed on to us, as buyers, to keep the cut specimen of our choice in good health until Twelfth Night.

With circa eight million yuletide trees sold in the UK each year, and the vast majority of those without roots, it might seem a big ask to keep them fresh with needles on board, given the warm home environment they’ll occupy.

From the moment they’re felled the drying-out process begins.

Water lost through transpiration continues as the trees stand on display and there’s none to replace it. Gradual shrinkage of tissue and eventual leaf loss beckons.

That’s where we step in.

Buy the tree of our choice and face two options: either secure it in a dry clamp to hold it upright and hope for the best, or search in the loft for the tree support with built-in reservoir that served us so well last year.

A felled Christmas tree requires the same treatment as a cut flower from the mixed border to keep it fully charged with water. Immediately either is separated from the roots, basal cells exposed to the air will dry out and cease to function.

Making a fresh cut near the bottom of a flower stem to expose active cells, then plunging it into the vase of water, encourages re-absorption.

Similarly, sawing circa 5cm from the base of the tree before immersing it into the water-filled clamp also works.

In the home, siting your tree in full light and a cool atmosphere is ideal, but we prefer it in our presence, which means a warm room, where it can process up to two litres of water daily.

This demands vigilance in keeping the reservoir topped-up.

If encouragement is required to do this, just bear in mind that a two-metre high tree can carry up to 20,000 needles.

Christmas trees are grown and harvested as a crop and represent a renewable resource.

From the sowing of seed to a two-metre-tall specimen can take up to 10 years, during which period regular maintenance – watering, feeding, pruning to shape – is essential.

So when they’ve played a key role in your celebrations, and the party’s over, give them a fitting send-off with a visit to the local recycling unit.