If you are tired of picking up
pine needles from the floor or bending wire branches to resemble a real
tree, consider giving yourself a true gift--a live container grown Northwest Native Tree. It's
a choice that has all the good points going for it and eliminates all the negatives associated with a pretend
tree in a box (artificial) or a cut "dead" tree (yes, once a tree is cut, it dies!).
Here are some of the benefits of having a living Christmas tree:
Cost savings. You may pay as much for a living tree as you would for
a dead one, but you can plant your living tree in the landscape after
the holidays. Don't need one in your yard? Give it to a friend, a
school, a neighborhood park, a church, a cemetery, etc.
Clean. A living tree does not shed
all its needles, does not need a tree stand, smells wonderful
fragrant than a dead tree. It also helps clean the air in your home
because it is alive.
Good for the earth. Living trees
do not contribute to deforestation and they do contribute to clean air, clean
water, and rich soil.
Celebrate wildlife. This is a good time to add
a tree that will attract birds and other wildlife. See our Landscape
page for tips on building a wildlife habitat in your yard.
More choices. You can select from a large number of Northwest Native
evergreen trees for your living tree. There are choices for all styles
of trees and decor.
For a traditional full look:
Silver Fir (Abies amabilis)
Fir (Abies concolor)
Fir (Abies grandis)
Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
For a southwestern or high desert look:
Fir (Abies lasiocarpa)
Fir (Abies procura)
Sequoia (Sequoia giganteum)
Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
For a more unusual and striking
or Modoc Cypress (Cupressus bakeri--rare and very choice)
Spruce (Picea sitchensis)
Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)
Northwest Native cedars such as
Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens--divine fragrance)
Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)
If you're cramped for space, try
the beautiful, fragrant and striking
Western Red Cedar aka
Giant Arborvitae (Thuja plicata)
Spruce (Picea engelmannii)
Have a more Oriental look with
or Weeping Spruce (Picea breweriana)
Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana)
Here are some tips for caring for your living Christmas tree:
Buy just the right size of a tree for the space it will occupy in
your home, and decide where to plant it outside after the holidays--remember how the tree will look when it grows up.
A tree in a container or one with it's roots wrapped in burlap will
both work well as a living tree.
Store your new tree in a cool area outdoors where it will have wind
protection until you are ready to bring it inside. A couple of days
before you bring it in, move it to an unheated garage or other
enclosure. You must limit the time spent in the home to 10 days, so plan
on a place for it to rest until it's time to bring indoors. This is the
most important factor in the survival of your new tree--don't keep it
inside too long! If you do, it may think it's springtime and when you
plant it outdoors where it is still winter, the tree will suffer a
shock. Don't confuse your tree! How about starting a new tradition:
bring your tree indoors on Christmas eve and plant it outside on New
Check your tree each week to make sure it has enough water. You want
the tree to be as healthy as possible when it makes it's debut as a
living holiday tree.
As soon as possible after purchasing your tree, decide where you will
finally plant your tree and dig the hole. Make sure to dig a large enough hole
for the root ball to relax. Place a board or other cover over the hole
until planting time. It's a good idea to put some mulch either in the
hole or over the board so it will be handy when you plant your tree. Be
sure to save the dirt from the hole, you'll need it for planting. If
your tree is large or the area is windy, drive some support stakes where
they'll be needed.
Protect your floors--put the burlap root ball or nursery pot in a big plastic bag or other
waterproof solution so you can water your tree while it's inside.
Water carefully! Not too much, not too little! Allow it to just
barely dry out and then water well but don't let it stand in water. As
soon as the tree gets a good drink, take out any excess water (a turkey
baster is a good tool for this).
Display your tree in a large pot or cover the waterproofed nursery
pot with a nice tree skirt or other covering. A quilt makes a lovely
country style cover. Use satin or velvet for an elegant appearance.
Cotton or polyester batting looks like snow. Some clean burlap will go
nicely in a homespun setting. Make a very unusual cover by weaving old
ribbons through chicken wire or hardware cloth--sturdy and beautiful.
Place your living Christmas tree carefully indoors. Avoid direct
sunlight. Keep away from any heat source such as furnace vents or
fireplaces and try to keep the temperature inside a little on the cool
side, especially at night.
You can decorate your living tree with all the usual things--lights
(miniatures please), colorful ornaments, garland.
After the holidays, if you are planting your tree, do so as soon as
possible but don't take it immediately outside. Trees don't usually move
around much on their own so it's best to take it outside in stages. Move
to a garage or unheated area of the home for several days, then outside
in a protected space for several more days, then finally to it's new
home. If you get a cold snap in the weather on planting day, wait until
the temperatures are in the 30's before planting. If your tree's root
ball is wrapped in burlap, place it in the hole and then cut and remove
any strings or wire. The burlap will compost right in the hole so
there's no need to take it out. Fill in the hole with the dirt you
reserved, mulch well and water thoroughly. Check your new tree often
during it's first year to make sure it has enough water. A nice thing to
do is place a permanent marker beside the tree that tells what year you
planted it and any special family events that happened during the
If your tree came in a nursery pot, return the
empty pot to the nursery the next
time you're out. We appreciate this very much and nothing is wasted.
Or, you can use it yourself to plant some Fawn
lilies (Erythronium oreganum) to bloom in the spring. Maybe a little
vignette for a shaded patio with trillium,
(Blechnum splicant), Licorice
Fern (Polypodium glycrrhiza), Wild
Ginger (Asarum caudatum), or other small Northwest
An alternative to planting out in the landscape is to keep the tree
in a container. You can use it as a living Christmas tree for many years
if you've selected one that does not grow too large too quickly. If you
choose this route, it's nice to get a plant dolly (just a frame with
wheels) to make it easier to move around. Also, plant a nice Northwest
Native groundcover such as Kinnikinnik
(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) beside the tree in the container as a living mulch to help prevent drying
If you must have a dead tree, re-use it if possible and then dispose
of it responsibly.
Many areas provide a chipping service for dead trees. For a small fee
you can have your tree chopped into mulch that will be used in parks or
other public places.
Use your dead tree as a model to see how a real tree will look in
your garden. Stick it in the ground where you are considering a
Northwest Native tree to observe how it will look. You can move it
around to find just the right spot.
Turn the dead tree into a bird or squirrel feeding station. Tie it to
any upright structure (fence post, clothesline pole, etc.) or set it
into the ground. Decorate with suet cakes, seed balls, garlands of
cranberries. Cut oranges in half, scoop out the pulp and fill with suet,
tie on the tree with raffia.
Cut it up and use the pieces. The branches and needles make a good
mulch. The trunk can be used in a twig construction or as a bean pole or
tomato stake. On May 1, get all the neighborhood kids together and make
This is a great family affair. String popcorn and cranberries (use to
decorate outside trees and shrubs after the holidays as a treat for the
birds). Make garlands out of any colorful paper or fabric. Hint: magazines
are colorful! Cut snowflakes out of newspaper or junk mail.
Oregon Grape is a
lovely alternative to holly.
Do you have lots of leftovers from your feast? Package it up and take
it to the nearest shelter for homeless people or abused women and
children. Take it to elderly friends. Call any church or community help
organization and ask if they can use it. Many have lists of folks in need.
Don't let good food go to waste.
Avoid using "gift wrap" at all times. Note: there are special
papers made from recycled materials and printed with soy ink that are
better than regular "commercial" gift wrap. While these are not
harmful to nature, they are considered by many to be a waste of time,
energy and money. According to a publication by ULS Report and Earth
Share, if every family re-used just 2 feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000
miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet!
Give gifts that do not need wrapping.
Remember that gift certificate idea?
Or buy a Northwest Native plant for all your friends and family. Small
ones can be container plants, big ones can go in the landscape. I gave some newly married friends a pair of Giant Sequoias (Sequoia giganteum) and suggested they take them out to a spot in the wilderness
that was special to them and plant them. Then go visit on each
Give your time or talents.
- Tend someone's garden--mulch or clean up leaves and
debris from stormy weather.
- Clean out someone's gutters.
- Wash someone's car each month for a year.
- Take somebody shopping.
- Volunteer to baby-sit.
- Clean the outside of someone's windows.
- Teach someone to play piano or paint a picture or weave a basket (Northwest
Native willows make great basket material).
- A friend of Jennifer's once created a simple casserole recipe and
taught her children how to make it for dinner.
Make the wrapping a part of the gift.
- Use material remnants and scraps of ribbon or trimming on a gift
for someone who sews.
- Put kitchen utensils or gifts of food in a dishtowel.
- Fill gardening gloves with seeds, small tools, gardener's soap,
hand lotion and tuck in a sprig of
Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens).
- Buy containers at yard sales--baskets, pretty tins, fabric
boxes--and create your own gift baskets.
- An ancient custom from the Orient is to wrap gifts in a beautiful
scarf tied in the shape of a flower (there are special scarves made
just for this purpose).
- Give everybody a fabric shopping bag filled with homemade cookie
mixes and a wooden spoon or tea blends and some crochet
Use newspaper for a wrapper.
If someone gives you a gift wrapped in commercial paper, for earth's
sake re-use it. Don't burn it in the fireplace or try to compost it unless
it's made of recycled material. You can use a little bit of gift wrap if
you're actually making paper though but be conservative.
This list is subject to growth and change as
education continues and new opportunities become available. Come back
and visit often. If you have ideas for good ways to love our earth,
please email them to me:
We'll update this site from time to time with your ideas.
Green holiday ideas at the following
- Sierra Club,
- Disney Family Fun,
- Yahoo's Green Gift Guide,
- From California Department of Conservation,
- Suite 101 ideas
- How to have a green tree,
- How to reserve Christmas and Thanksgiving,
- Geri Nikolai: Plan to have a green holiday
- EarthShare's green holiday gift guide:
- Green Living Ideas,
- Home and Garden Television,