Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Au Tannenbaum by Carol Wallwork first posted online December 11, 2008

Wishful tree hunting country

Scrubby meadowland, Elanor C. Lawrence Park, Virginia

The day after Thanksgiving 2007 I went on a quest to find a different kind of Christmas tree.  I wanted a skimpy, four-foot tallish Virginia scrub pine, like the ones that grow near the trails I walk at the nearby county park.  Imagining how hand-made children’s keepsake ornaments would shine on such a bare tree yet suspecting there’s a law against harvesting the ‘humble undergrowth,’ I resorted to plan B--garden centers.  Off I went on a mission to find a modest Christmas tree.

I am reminded of our friend Bob and the year he and his wife Fran moved into their Fairfax town home, within walking distance of a huge swath of Fairfax  County Parkway that was just about to be completed.  He’d spent many a weekend that autumn roller blading miles of yet unopened virgin Virginia roadway, passing many an uprooted scrub pine along the way.  That Christmas he salvaged one before it was hauled away.  That's the kind of Christmas tree I wanted.  Just like Bob’s. 

Not as simple as it sounds.  After scouring several garden centers, all completely fitted out with every conceivable size of cut Fraser and Noble firs, starting price $49.95 up to $125--for a disposable tree--I realized I had to shift my focus.  I finally ended up with a three foot live Leland cyprus, for $27.  We put no lights on it, or ornaments because it needed spritzing each day to survive a dry winter house.  In early spring I even planted it in our back yard. 

Decorating our scrubbier tree
This Thanksgiving I presumed I’d buy another Leland Cyprus.  Until I accidentally happened upon a Christmas tree stand.  Then it hit me...the unmitigated, resplendent scent of traditional firs and spruce and pines.  How could I have forgotten that?  Or gotten so focused on how much the tree cost, where it would end up, how it would look, that I missed the forest?  Or did I simply make a trade last year?  I forget.

What to do?  I now have a lone Leland cyprus in the back garden looking isolated in that way trees often do when they are the only tree of their kind in a meadow, for if they were animals I think most trees would be herd critters, not coyotes.  My Cyprus needs at least two more Christmas additions so it can impersonate a hedge.  I can still buy a Cyprus but also buy scads of evergreen roping.  Or, pop for two trees, one of each--talk of conspicuous consumption--here’s my real Christmas tree (the Cyprus) and here’s the scented one, for atmosphere.  Or is it the other way around?  No. No way an artificial tree.  This is getting complicated. 

Resolution:  Come spring  I could plant two Cyprus in the back yard, within shouting distance of the first one.  And this Christmas, we’ll find a balsam fir, the most aromatic tree.  Full circle.

Just planted in our garden

Six years later and 12 feet taller! I never planted another Leland Cyrus.  To my surprise, this one is becoming a great addition to our garden, and is well-socialized with nearby viburnum and snowball bushes.

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