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Christmas trees that keep on growing

Renee Tratch
Digital Writer, theweathernetwork.com

Wednesday, November 30, 2016, 7:51 PM - Thousands upon thousands of Canadian-grown Christmas trees are travelling by the truckload across provinces, states and abroad en route to new homes for the holidays.

The demand for these fresh-cut beauties is on the rise, with sales in Canada increasing last year to $78.4 million, up 21.6 per cent from $64.4 million in 2014, according to Statistics Canada.

“The consumer is demanding them,” says Shirley Brennan, Executive Director for the Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario and the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers, the association that has designated the first Saturday of December as Christmas Tree Day in Canada.

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But a different version of natural tree is making it inside homes – for a brief showing over the holidays – then back outside again to keep on growing.

The living Christmas tree, one that comes with the heavy root ball attached, is being sought after by a small but growing group of Canadian buyers.

For Ontario retailer, Aaron Harpell, Senior Manager, Retail and Commercial Operations at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto’s Don Valley, about 10 per cent of their natural Christmas tree offerings is living trees. The shipment has increased every year with this year being the largest amount to date.

“Every day my office gets phone calls from people saying 'we'd like to start a Christmas tree farm," explains Brennan. She attributes this to a move in which businesses are looking to offset their carbon footprint and pay for the carbon they produce by planting trees.

Going the natural locally-grown route beats out the artificial version in terms of environmental impact. Every acre of growing Christmas trees, for example, can produce enough oxygen for 18 people per day.

“It’s a niche and by no means the bulk of sales, but in the last three years it has started to become busier,” he says.

While it’s becoming more commonplace, he says there is still a lot to explain in terms of care before, during and after the Christmas season.

A living Christmas tree comes in for about seven days then back outside again.

“You don’t want the tree to come out of dormancy and think it should start growing again,” explains Harpell. “That can be very stressful on a tree.”

He recommends keeping the living Christmas tree outside about a week before Christmas then taking it back outside shortly after.

“In an ideal world you’re keeping it in a slightly cooler house or cooler room in the house,” advises Harpell. He also recommends keeping it away from heat sources and using LED lights rather than the old incandescent lights.

Similar to fresh-cut trees, watering is key to having it to last. A well-cared for traditionally cut Christmas tree can last up to a month.

Where warm water is recommended for the first watering of the fresh-cut kind, the living tree needs to stay cool.

Harpell tells customers to crack ice cubes on the top of the root bulb.

“That will keep the root bulb cooler inside and the water will melt and feed the root system,” he explains.

After Christmas, and then what?

Harpell explains that to ensure a healthy tree next year, you can place it in a cool corner of a patio or deck or put it right into the ground for the winter.

“People will actually dig a hole right now before the ground soil freezes then put that living Christmas tree right into the ground and cover the root ball with some mulch for protection,” says Harpell.

Once spring comes the tree can remain there or be moved to its final planting place.

For their fresh-cut friends, they also find ‘new life’ post-holidays  - picked up by municipalities to be made into mulch for springtime plantings.

WATCH BELOW: Nova Scotia sending Christmas Trees to Boston goes back a number of historic years

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