A couple days ago, I mentioned that we were headed off to purchase our Christmas tree. We had a couple objectives. First, we wanted to try a tree that was still living, not the typical cut tree that was just a few weeks away from the compost pile. Secondly, we wanted to get a species of tree that I could plant down along Fairview Creek when the holidays were over.
That shouldn’t be a problem here in the biggest Christmas tree-producing state in the country, right? Oregon produces about 7 million Christmas trees per year, nearly 40% of all the trees harvested in the US. The second-place state, North Carolina, produces less than half that many. So finding a live native Douglas Fir or Western Red Cedar ought to be relatively easy. Or so I thought.
My local nursery had a small but diverse selection of live trees, probably 15 or so to choose from. Unfortunately, none were the native species I was looking for. Plant the wrong tree and two things could happen. Most likely, Noble or Grand Fir accustomed to growing at higher elevations and colder temperatures would not survive very long along our low-elevation creek. Secondly, even if it were to survive, this would not be a species that would help keep the ecosystem healthy – it would be a foreigner to the birds and plants found along Fairview Creek.
Tree lots and even you-cut Christmas tree farms are abundant in or near the Portland Metro area. However, they do not offer living trees. The farms are highly efficient at growing, cutting, baling and shipping trees, and the digging and potting process is not in their business plans. I thought I might have to give up my dream of a live tree.
There are some fledgling efforts for Christmas tree alternatives, including one local non-profit that offers to rent you a living tree, then plant it in a watershed after Christmas (http://www.livingchristmastrees.org). However, we did not get our reserved far enough in advance, and I want to plant the tree here, not along some other stream.
Finally, at Portland Nursery (http://www.portlandnursery.com), Vicki and I found a 6 foot Douglas Fir, sheared to be sure, but fully qualified to grow and help shade the Creek for many years after this Christmas. We brought it home and placed it on our front porch for now.
Live trees bring another consideration – the inside of your house may be cozy and warm to you, but to a living tree, it’s a sauna! The friendly folks at Portland Nursery recommend that you keep your tree outside as long as possible, and to bring it inside the house for no more than about a week.
This year, our Christmas tree will live on past the holiday season and will help us restore the ecological balance of Fairview Creek. The gift that keeps on giving, for sure!
Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009. ISBN 978-0-30744-499-8. For more info: http://www.michaelabbate.com