The Dirt

The Gardener’s Christmas Tree

Photo/Illustration: Daryl Beyers
Photo/Illustration: Daryl Beyers

Posted by Jennifer Benner

As I was tromping through the fields of a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm recently, it occurred to me that there are two kinds of Christmas tree hunters: the perfectionist and optimist. The perfectionist will be sure to travel to every corner of the farm to make sure that only the most flawless tree on the lot is strapped to the roof their car. The optimist sees the best in every tree and would pretty much be content to go home with the first one they see. As I observed the many tree farm patrons during my outing, my theory began to evolve. I would wager a bet that a good majority of optimist tree hunters are gardeners.

Who else would be so accepting of a less-than-perfect tree, than those who toil the earth and endure years of botanical triumphs and failures? It can take a lot of time and effort to cultivate anything over 5 feet tall. Perhaps that’s why it becomes almost an obsession for me to keep my tree watered once it comes into the house. My guess is it’s a combination of my guilt for cutting down a perfectly good tree and my compulsion to keep every plant alive.

This year the feeling is hitting me stronger than usual, since we’re sporting a 13-foot Fraser fir in our living room. With family coming out from Ohio, we wanted to do it up big. Mission accomplished. This thing is huge. There’s only about an inch of room to spare in our beefy Bowling’s Last Stand. The stand has been a tank (dubbed “the last Christmas tree stand you’ll ever need to buy”) over the years. So far, it’s holding up the tree just fine, but we just can’t seem to keep it filled with enough water.

The first night home, I must of crawled under our ginormous fir two or three times to quench its thirst-knocking down ornaments along the way and resurfacing with a fresh coating of sap and needles down the back of my shirt. By the second night, my husband had set up a clever self-watering system. The tree now siphons water to its stand through a hose that is sunk into a plastic dishpan basin that we fill with water (once a day now). It’s not pretty, but, like most gardeners, I couldn’t care less; it’s getting the job done. If my family (or Martha Stewart) doesn’t like it, heck with them. I think it’s the most beautiful tree in the world.

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