Saturday, December 22, 2012

Seasons Greetings

May your gardening Season start early

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Oh Tannenbaum

For centuries, if not millennia, people have been bringing evergreen plants into their home to celebrate the winter Solstice and give them hope to get them through the bleakest darkest days of winter.  In the 1500s, the Germans and the Scandinavians began to bring in whole trees but the idea did not begin to catch on in America until the mid 1800s, and their presence has often caused controversy due to their pagan origins. 

I have not had a live tree for at least 10 years.  In fact, for the last four years we have not had a tree at all.  We no longer had an empty wall space to rotate furniture to and there simply wasn't room in this tiny, 900 square foot house to put one.  I've kept my eyes open for a good quality artificial table top tree, but so far, nothing has seemed right.

A Christmas tree is a rather personal thing. Each one has its own character and each decorator imparts some vestige of themselves in it. The very shape of an evergreen tree is attractive. So much so, that my sister, with her minimalist decorating style, has been known to put up her large prelit, and very realistic looking artificial tree, place a star on it, and call it done. Artificial trees are nice, but the live ones speak more to me. It's even better when you know the tree personally or associate good memories with choosing it and bringing it home.

This little Hemlock, and it's Siamese twin have been growing on the shoulder of the road along our frontage.  I remember when it was just a twig.  Heck, I remember when it wasn't even there.  It popped up back when the area was wild and unkempt, battling it's way through a thick layer of leaves and weeds and somehow survived the placement of a culvert pipe along the ditch.  I have admired it every time I drove by it for a few years now, thinking what a perfect little tree it was and how nice it would look as a Christmas tree.  I almost cut it last year, but couldn't commit.  This past summer, as we were working along the fence line, Tim said "I'm going to get the tractor and pull out those little trees.  I'm tired of mowing around them."  No!  I want to use them for Christmas trees!  I promise this year I will.  And so the stay of execution.

These little trees were growing side by side, not 6 inches between them.  I had studied them well enough to know the bigger one was the right size and shape for what I wanted.  I wasn't sure about the smaller one.  They were too close together to separate and replant.  Their symmetry was in doubt .  Tim was excited to be rid of one or both so he offered to help.

I thought maybe the smaller one could be left to grow and be used in the future, but it was pretty dismal looking standing there alone.  We decided to cut that one too, and Mom could either use it for a table top tree or cut it up for wreaths.  A couple of weeks ago we cut a 30 foot Hemlock for Mom's wreaths, but the top was too misshapen to use as a Christmas tree.  Mom would be happy to get this little guy as a replacement.

Once freed from its family entanglements, my little tree was just as perfect as I had pictured it.

Polish Table Top Tree
For several years I have been collecting pictures of perfectly decorated table top trees.  The one above is decorated with handmade wheat and straw ornaments as well as painted blown out eggs.  More details can be read by clicking on the caption link.  I love themed trees but hand making all your own ornaments requires quite a head start on the season.  If you had more than one tree to decorate this would be a fun project and you could customise them to each room.

Tinsel Tree
Commercial ornaments can be used to good effect if you keep your color scheme in mind.  Note that all these table top trees are placed in urns and not tree stands.  Their little trunks are pretty difficult to fit into most stands.  An urn, or even a galvanised pail full of gravel make an excellent alternative and provide enough ballast to keep a tree upright.

Pruning a Table Top Tree
Another thing all these little table top trees have in common is that they are not the bushy full trees you get from a Christmas Tree Farm.  They also bear little resemblance to most artificial trees.  They do look like the natural growing Blue Spruce we cut every year from my Grandfather's farm.  The open layers of branches leave room for the ornaments to hang straight down so you can see and enjoy them.  Instructions for pruning a tree this way are linked in the caption above.  But, pruning more than half of the branches out was not something I was ever prepared to do with a tree I had paid good money for.  Even if the trimmings could be used for wreaths or centerpieces, it seemed like an expensive experiment.

Enter my little Hemlock.  In hind sight, there were probably a couple of branches that could have been trimmed out of this one, but it looks quite good as it is.  The trunk was just big enough to fit my cast iron tree stand (with a little shimming) and the tree stand's tiny reservoir is just adequate for this size tree. 

I really had no clear idea in mind for this tree.  I knew I didn't want to use red.  I also had gold balls so I started with those.  Actually, of course I started with the lights.  The accepted practice for placing lights on a "designer hoity toity tree" is to run them along the center of each branch, over the tip, and back to the trunk.  My little Hemlock was too fine and flexible for this so there is a good deal of floral tape in there holding the wire to the branches.  I added some green ornaments and glittery icicles as a base for my special ornaments.

I wanted this tree to represent the things that Tim and I enjoy.  There are a lot of gardening themed ornaments in there, including lots of tomatoes, some pea pods, eggplant, beet, garlic and even Wellie boots.  There is a grey Saddlebred horse, and a red 1954 Ford truck.  Tim's gas station collection is represented by a gas pump, and his gumball machines by a rather clever little 5 cent gumball machine.  They truly make an ornament for everything. 

The Breyer porcelain ornament represents my horse William

This marvelous little gumball machine is made by Kurt Adler Co.

It's hard to photograph a Christmas tree.  They almost always look better in person.  There is just something magical about staring into their depths no matter what your age.

Even this little tree is quite an imposing presence in the room.  I haven't even decorated the pie safe or Hoosier because I think it would detract from the tree.

Its hard to tell, but in person the gold ornaments really highlight the brass hardware on the Hoosier, and the green ones pick up on the cream and green graniteware I have collected.

Yes, this Christmas tree says a lot about Tim and I and it fits perfectly in our home.  It was born and raised here.  It has been admired and intended for this job for several years.  Tim and I had fun, in our own way, picking it out and bringing it in the house.  The ornaments have been carefully chosen individually for what they mean to us.  It has a lot of country charm, this little tree.  And the other little tree?  It didn't get cut up for wreaths.  It is sitting in a pail of gravel in my mother's picture window, and I'm sure it has been decorated just so.  It had a purpose as well.