Christmas trees: A real Christmas Presence. What's your pick?
I hear Christmas, and the first word that pops into my mind (besides list) is tree. I mean, what’s a Christmas romance without a sappy, foresty-smelling, needle dropping, coniferous tree?
When I wrote The Christmas Presence, the hero, Noelle ended up with two Christmas trees. One, she and her ex-husband/bodyguard put up at their cabin hideout:
The twinkle of lights on the Christmas tree in the corner. The flickering candles on the mantle. She couldn’t set the stage for seduction better if she tried.
The Christmas Presence
The other a welcome home gift from her older brothers.
She would rather blame the pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree for her humdrum spirits. The tree would make a snowman cry. Branches down, it was the ugliest ever. If she blamed the tree, she didn’t have to admit what was really bothering her, and she could keep acting like the lovelorn heroine in a gothic romance.
The Christmas Presence
When I started, The Mrs. Claus Contract (coming October 2023) it seemed only natural that if I was going to have the fun of writing another holiday romance, I would take Christmas tree magic to a whole new level. Enter the town of Christmasville and the McNaughton tree farm. The hero, Sam, is a wounded warrior returning to pick up the pieces of his family’s rundown tree farm.
My character, Sam, knows all about tree farming. Me, not so much. Then again, Sam has the words of his father, John, to fall back on:
The trees surrounding him all looked alike. Their branches had grown wild and ragged, with no proper leaders showing the direction the trees should grow. Sam frowned. What would John say?
That was easy to answer. He would say, target the family trees first. Pick ones that won’t cause a war over height and fullness, ones that will be easy to tie onto the roof of a car. We don’t want anyone putting their backs out because they chose a tree that won’t fit in their three-bedroom bungalow. Then move on to trim trees folks can set up in apartments and condominiums. They’ll be smaller, not so much girth.
Now stop standing around like a telephone pole and get to work.”
The Mrs. Claus Contract
The trees on the McNaughton farm:
To figure out a bit of what Sam obviously knew, I had to get to work and do some research on trees, pruning and care.
The first thing was, if Sam owns a Christmas tree farm, he needs trees. What type of trees would he grow? That sounds easy, but Christmas tree farmers pick their crops from a pool of almost twenty different species of trees. Sorry Sam, you only get five.
Take a walk in a rain forest, and you’ll be surrounded by these. They are the massive trees towering over your head. Douglas firs can grow to be 330 feet (100 metres) tall and live up to 1000 years.
They are hardy trees, tough enough to withstand harsh growing conditions and fast growing enough to reach Christmas tree size in seven to ten years.
Their branches grow in a grand pyramid shape with dark green to blue-green needles radiating around the twigs, giving them a look of density. Douglas firs colour the air with the Christmas scent of fresh cut evergreens.
This tree screams, it’s Christmas! The branches of a Fraser fir have a slight up tilt, and their blue-green needles have a silvery underside. This makes the tree a showstopper. With stiffer branches than a Douglas fir, and shed resistant needles, Frasers won't droop under pressure. They're up to the job of holding heavy ornaments. If you’re a tree-up at the beginning of December type, this may be the one for you. Fraser firs can last up to five weeks after cutting.
This is my favorite. The Grand fir has flat, shiny green needles with a silver hue on the under side. They have the strongest fragrance of the trees on Sam’s tree farm. The Grand's branches are softer, their needles resilient, less prone to falling out. They may not be as tough as a Fraser fir when it comes to holding up heavy ornaments, but they gets the job done while making your home smell and feel like a winter holiday.
In The Mrs. Claus Contract, this is Sophie and Sam’s tree. It’s also Santa’s guide tree. The Noble fir doesn't spread as much as some of the other trees, so it works well in snug places. They grow tall (over 200 feet if left alone), and straight, making them a popular choice for big rooms or town squares. That’s why Santa chooses Sam and Sophie’s tree as one of his guide trees. The stiff branches with their blue green to silvery-green needles have amazing needle retention, and they’ll support heavy ornaments, or whatever guidance equipment Santa needs for Christmas Eve. The greenery from the Noble fir lasts a long time, making it a great choice for garlands, wreathes and swags.
Care and Feeding
Of course, picking a tree is as individual as choosing a favourite jellybean colour, but care and feeding is the same for all of them.
After it’s cut, put the tree in water right away, and be sure to keep the reservoir filled. This helps your tree to stay green and keep its needles. Choose a tree stand that holds a gallon of water. If the fresh cut trunk dries out, the tree can’t soak up the water.
Keep your Christmas tree away from heat sources. Aside from the obvious—trees are wood and wood is fuel—heating vents and fireplaces dry your tree out. Find a cool dry space for it.
Before bringing the tree inside, give it a shake, or a light blast with a leaf blower. This helps get rid of dry needles or any buggy invaders who have set up camp.
Care like this can extend the life of your tree by a few weeks.
When you buy a tree from a lot, re-cut an inch of wood from the bottom of the trunk. This exposes fresh wood and lets the tree absorb the water it needs.
I loved writing and researching The Mrs. Claus Contract. It put me in the Christmas spirit and made me want to go pick my tree. This year though, I’ll wear boots on our tramp through the fields. That will let me avoid a slide down the bank. After all, who wants a mudslide unless it’s in a cup?
Cheers, and have a Merry Holiday season!