PHOTOS BY Hillary Ehlen & Eric Baker
Nothing gets you into the holiday spirit like the smell of a live Christmas tree. However, before you decide to take an axe to the evergreen your son or daughter brought home from school on arbor day ten years ago, there are a few things you might like to know. We sought out local experts Eric Baker and Phaidra Yunker of Baker Garden & Gift to teach us about current Christmas tree trends and care, as well as outdoor treetop arrangements.
Meet the Experts
Eric Baker is a third generation business-owner. His grandfather opened Baker Garden & Gift in 1959. Baker works with Phaidra Yunker, who is a Custom Container Design Manager. She has been working at Baker Garden & Gift for the past seven years.
Two most popular trees
According to Baker, there are two types of trees that are currently popular in the United States. The first is the fraser fir and the second is the scotch pine. While firs have soft and supple needles, pine needles are more prickly. However, both trees are very fragrant. “Part of the Christmas tree experience is the smell. A lot of times it is a memory trigger for people,” said Baker.
Currently, fraser firs are the United States’ most popular Christmas tree. “The styles of trees have changed over the years, just like furniture,” Baker said. The demand for this type of tree grows each year. Baker Garden & Gift orders trees from North Carolina because they grow best in the cool, moist climate found near the Appalachian Mountains. “They are the best trees we can find,” the owner explained.
“If you were to go out into nature and find relatives of these trees, they would never look the same.” – Eric Baker
Scotch pines are a dryer type of tree. Baker likes to tell people how these trees get their color. “Full disclosure, any pine that anybody buys, 99% of them will have been sprayed green,” he said. Their natural color can sometimes be seen on the underside of the lower branches.
The tallest scotch pines at Baker Garden & Gift reach up to 8 feet, while the tallest fraser firs are 14 feet in height
After you bring your live tree home, the first thing you should do is make a fresh cut on the end. In other words, cut off about two inches from the bottom of the trunk before placing it in the stand with water. If you don’t want to put your tree up right away, store it in a cool, dark place. When you do set up your tree, make sure that it is not located next to a heat source.
Tip: If the needles on your tree become brittle and start falling off of the branches, you can cut a wedge-shaped notch into the trunk, which exposes more living tissue and allows the tree to absorb more water.
Baker recommends saving the wood slice and turning it into a keepsake ornament.
After you make the cut, Baker suggests dropping the tree onto the stand. Almost every tree stand has spikes in the middle that help the tree stay upright. “Just make sure that the tree gets fully seated on the spikes,” he said. Then you can adjust the pegs to make sure that the tree stands up straight.
The first 72 hours after you make the cut are critical, so you have to make sure that there is always water in the stand. By making that fresh cut, you expose living tissue that draws moisture up into the tree. Even though the tree no longer has roots, it still needs moisture to keep it looking healthy throughout the holiday season. If cared for properly, a Christmas tree can last from the day after Thanksgiving until January 1.
Tip: Place a disposable bag under the tree and hide it beneath a tree skirt. Then, when it is time to take down your tree, you can just lift it up.
Flocked trees do not require water because they are coated in a preservative that locks moisture in. Baker flocks all of the trees himself. The coating consists of wood pulp, an Elmer’s Glue-like adhesive and paint. After white, the most popular flocked tree color at Baker Garden & Gift is black. They offer several other colors as well. In the past, Baker has even made a Bison-themed tree.
Outdoor Treetop Arrangements
Another up-and-coming trend is outdoor treetop arrangements. Many may have the misconception that these arrangements are made out of tree branches, but they are actually made out of trees sourced from Canada. These trees are about the same age as many of the fraser firs and scotch pines that Baker ordered, but are smaller in size because they were grown in a harsher climate.
Yunker uses resin containers, dense soil, spruce tops, white pine and up to four different types of cedar in her designs. Some of these arrangements are destined for the showroom floor, while others are made to order for commercial and residential clients. “They’re becoming more and more popular,” she said.
Baker Garden & Gift also offers seminars where attendees make their own outdoor treetop arrangement. This year, they offered eight seminars with ten spots each. Yunker explained, “I think that people are becoming more aware, and it’s been incredibly successful this year.”
After they are complete, Yunker dumps a couple gallons of water over the arrangements and they will stay frozen until March. “When it leaves here, as long as it freezes, that’s how it is going to look all season,” she said. However, there are a couple of challenges. “Pots are being designed more and more intelligently. Unfortunately, in our climate, we can’t have ceramic outside because it will freeze and crack,” Yunker explained. She also warns against North Dakota winds. Resin containers filled with dense soil typically are the most sturdy.
For more information, contact:
Baker Garden & Gift
2733 S University Drive Fargo, ND