5280 Magazine – December 2008 – "Spruced Up"

5280cover-dec5280dec-sprucedup(From 5280 Magazine, December 2008, page 56)

Spruced Up

Your new, living Christmas tree.

It wouldn’t be December without the annual debate between fake and cut Christmas trees. Artificial trees are easy to set up, but are often made with a toxic stew of PVC, lead, and carcinogenic chemicals—some manufacturers even recommend keeping children away. Cut trees, on the other hand, promote sustainable agriculture but can breed mold spores that’ll have an allergy-prone family sneezing. Besides, vacuuming dead needles is a drag.

If you’re looking for an alternative, try a living Christmas tree: a potted, live version of the cut tree that you can plant in your yard come New Year’s. Our official state tree, the hardy and majestic Colorado blue spruce, is the trendiest option, and with good reason. Blue spruces cost about the same as cut and artifi cial trees, will remove pollutant particulates and carbon dioxide from the air, and exhale oxygen into your home. And when finally planted, each tree will become an enduring memento to the holiday—for more than 200 years. Here’s what you need to know. -RON DOYLE


The tree’s roots and accompanying dirt usually come in burlap or a pot and can weigh up to 150 pounds on a six-foot tree. Pots will make transporting the tree easier, but think about buying a smaller tree, if only for your back’s sake.


Let the tree’s temperature slowly adjust to warmth in the garage for a few days, says Mark James, a master arborist in Littleton. Once inside, keep the soil moist and the room cool, and make sure the tree gets plenty of sunlight.


The tree can survive inside until spring, but you’re better off putting it outside within 7 to 10 days. Give the tree a rest stop in the garage again to ease the transition, and once outside, surround the pot with mulch to keep it insulated.


Wait until spring before planting the tree in your yard. Yardless? Planting in national forests is illegal, so ask neighbors, homeowner’s associations, and park agencies. No takers? Buy a Norfolk Island pine, which lives indoors happily year-round.


Creekside Tree Nursery

Many varieties, ranging from 4 to 6 feet; $60–$200. 3283 61st St., Boulder, 303-668-7647

Paulino Gardens

Tabletop sizes start at $13, mature sizes up to $200. 6300 N. Broadway, Denver, 303-429-8062

Tagawa Gardens

Spruce and Douglas Fir, 3 to 9 feet; $40–$220. 7711 S. Parker Road, Centennial, 303-690-4722

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