Norway Spruce: A Tree of Many Uses

Picea abies

Norway SpruceThe English resisted calling the Norway spruce by its name, instead referring to it as the “common spruce.” The Finnish claimed it as their own, calling it the Finn spruce, while others, the European spruce. Regardless of what you call it, the Norway spruce is a European staple. Best known for its durability and towering heights, the Norway spruce has spread its popularity across the Atlantic and into the U.S., becoming an American favorite.

What makes this tree even more likeable is its multiple uses. It is an important lumber crop in Europe, producing a strong light-weight wood with a straight grain, making it an ideal choice in construction. It’s a great landscape tree for its dense foliage and tall heights. The tree’s natural pyramidal shape and green color make it one of the most popular Christmas trees in the country.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding a Norway spruce to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions:

  • Does well in acidic, clay, loamy, moist, sandy and well drained soils (hardiness zones 3-7).
  • Does well in full and partial sun.
  • Medium to fast growing tree, growing up to two feet a year and reaching 40-60 feet at maturity.

Physical Attributes:

  • Has dark green, one inch needles with squared tips, needles are retained for six to seven years before dropping.
  • Has a thin, reddish-brown bark that thickens and flakes off as the tree ages.
  • Cones start to form at age 30, with seeds dropping during the winter or early spring, providing food for wildlife.

Tag us in a photo with your Norway spruce!

Deodar Cedar: Himalayan Divine

Cedrus deodara

Deodar CedarDeodar—derived from Sanskrit to mean “timber of the gods”— is native to the western Himalayas and a staple in eastern forests. The Deodar Cedar is popular for its towering heights, reaching as high as 250 feet in its natural habitat. Tree expert Michael Dirr even referred to it “the most graceful cedar,” and by the look of its unique branching patterns and attractive coloring it’s understandable why.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding it to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions

  • Deodar cedars grow well in acidic, clay, loamy, moist and well drained soils. They are also drought tolerant (hardiness zones 7-9).
  • Medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 40-70 feet in height at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes

  • Has a smooth gray-brown bark in its youth and develops short furrows with scaly ridge tops as it ages.
  • Has sharp-tip needles that shed in the spring as new growth appears.
  • Features bluish-green or silvery needles and a distinct layering branch pattern. This tree is a popular windbreak choice.

Tag us in a photo with your Deodar Cedar!

Scots Pine: The Survivalist

Pinus sylvestric

Scots-Pine_3-902[2]The Scots Pine was popular at the turn of the century on old farm fields. Early farmers were familiar with this species from its growth throughout Europe and knew it could tolerate poor, dry soil.

Eventually they found that the trees did not mature into the fine timber stands they envisioned, but often stagnated or had twisted trunks. It was the beginning of the realization that seed sources vary widely and must be matched to the planting site. There are more than 35 different seed sources commercially recognized.

The Scots pine also happens to be amongst the country’s most popular Christmas trees because of their excellent form and great needle retention.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding a Scots pine to your yard.

Environmental Conditions:

  • Scots pine grow well in acidic, clay, loamy, moist, sandy, well drained and well drained soils, they are also drought tolerant (hardiness zones 3-7).
  • Slow to medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 60 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes:

  • Has thick, scaly, dark grey-brown bark that thins out and turns reddish-orange near the top as the tree ages.
  • Dark green to blue needles extending one to three inches in length.
  • Scots pine seeds are popular among wildlife, owls are known to nest in the trees.

Tag us in a photo with your Scots pine tree!

White Fir: A Comrade to the Foothills

Abies concolor

White-Fir_2-839[1]If you’ve ever been hiking in the Rockies or the Sierras, then chances are you’ve crossed paths with the white fir. The white fir has the largest natural range of any of the western firs—with the exception of its cousin the subalpine fir. It is one of 40 members of its genus worldwide, and nine in North America. This mountain beauty has grown popular outside of its natural habitat as well for its tolerance to harsh conditions. While it’s native to the Sierra and Rocky mountain ranges, it is found as far east as Maine.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding it to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions:

  • White fir grow well in most soils including acidic, loamy, sandy and well drained (hardiness zones 4-7). Avoid highly alkaline or clay soils and areas that flood.
  • Slow to medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 30-50 feet at maturity.
  • Does well in full and partial sun.

Physical Attributes:

  • Has blunt needles that display faint white lines on upper stomata.
  • Can take different crown shapes depending on how much space is available.
  • Has a thick, rough bark. Young bark tends to be whitish in color while older bark has resin blisters.

This tree is also a favorite Christmas tree amongst buyers. If you have one in your yard check out our DIY: Decorating an Outdoor Christmas Tree, The Natural Way for ideas on decorating it for the season and tag us in a photo of the finished design.

DIY: Decorating an Outdoor Christmas Tree, the Natural Way

The festivities of Christmas call for rambunctious family dinners and social gatherings with friends. The vibrant hues of emeralds, golds and ruby decked through the house and traces of eggnog and gingerbread truly bring the Christmas spirit to life. A common family tradition to kick off the season starts with decorating the family tree, which some consider to be the heart that brings it all together.

xmastree

Photo from annstreetbailey.com

While you’re probably familiar with the numerous benefits trees deliver by now, we’ll add one more benefit to the list: outdoor Christmas tree. Having evergreen trees in your front yard is convenient during the holiday season when you can take those natural pyramidal frames and dress them up in tinsel and lights that they don’t have the chance to flaunt all year-round. But what if this year, instead of tinsel, you decorated your tree in something a bit more au natural? Something that could give back to the environment?

Here are nine do-it-yourself decorating tips to embellish your outdoor tree that steer away from the traditional glitz and glamor but still make your home welcoming; it’s yet another way of bringing the family together and giving back to the environment, outside critters will thank you.

    • Spray paint pinecones: It’s a sure way to make them pop and still maintain the natural feel. Don’t forget to use a non-toxic spray paint.
    • Cinnamon walnut bundles: Cinnamon is great for decorating because it looks nice, adds aroma, and can be eaten by wildlife. There are numerous ways of using cinnamon sticks, one includes bundling three to four sticks together and stringing them with walnuts to create garland around the tree. Or hang them alone as ornaments, twine compliments it well.
    • Raisins, cranberries, figs: Use whatever dry fruit you have on hand and string them on wire around the tree to pair with garland.
    • Orange/lemon pomanders: This is a fun alternative to ornaments, cut slits around an orange or lemon and let it dehydrate, the crisp scent of citrus is refreshing, and the peels will easily break-down into the soil once you’re done through with your decorations.
    • Led lights: If you’re adamant on adding lights to your display opt for an LED option, they’re more energy efficient. Better yet, go for solar powered, you’ll save on energy costs and eliminate the hassle of cords.
    • Popcorn balls: Popcorn balls are fun and can easily be decorated with frosting. Birds and squirrels are also fans of the salty treat, so don’t be surprised if they pop up among unexpected guests.
    • Gingerbread cookies: Gingerbread is classic and it’s edible, so take advantage of its solid surface, whether it’s frosting the tops or cutting into shapes.
    • Apple slices: Cut thin slices of apple, let it dehydrate, and hang them around the tree.
    • Aluminum cupcake wrappers: If you’re still looking for that finishing touch, aluminum cupcake wrappers are a cheap way of adding some glitz. The reflections of aluminum will shine and the smooth finish should hold up against snow or rain.

As with anything, make it your own. Any of these ideas can be combined or used alone in decorating your outdoor tree. Best of all, cleanup is a breeze because most the items can be eaten by wildlife or used to make compost.

What other natural tips do you have in decorating an outside tree?

Paper Birch: The Quixotic Novelty

paper birch

Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli, Flickr

(Betula papyrifera)

Before it became frowned upon as an act of vandalism, people would peel layers of the thin, paper-like bark and write on it as a novel way to send messages, hence the paper birch was born. This New Hampshire state tree is often associated with beauty and romance, and it’s understandable why. With its lean trunk and towering height, the paper birch stands out amidst any forest backdrop. In addition to its early beginnings as a source of paper, the paper birch was also the tree of choice for early canoes because of its light weight and smooth grain.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding it to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions

  • Paper birch grows in acidic, clay, loamy, moist and sandy soils, is also drought tolerant (hardiness zones 2-7).
  • Medium to fast growing tree, growing two to three feet a year and reaching 50-70 feet high at maturity.
  • Does well in full and partial sun.

Physical Attributes

  • Has a distinctive, smooth, white, paper-like bark that curls and peels as the trees ages.
  • Exhibits rich, golden, fall foliage.
  • Note: peeling the bark off will scar the tree with a dark band around the trunk, the area will not grow back with its natural white bark, so resist peeling.

If you could write a message to the forest, what would you say?

Arizona Cypress: The Southern Evergreen

Arizona Cypress

Tolerant of hot and dry conditions, the Arizona Cypress tree is an excellent tree for its native habitat, the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. It makes a good windbreak, and it is also widely used for soil erosion planting. It is grown as a Christmas tree and used in the landscape as an ornamental.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding an Arizona cypress to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • The Arizona Cypress grows in acidic, alkaline, drought tolerant, loamy, sandy and well drained soils (hardiness zones 7-9).
  • Medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 40-50 feet high at maturity.
  • Does best in full sun.

Physical Attributes

  • Soft gray-green foliage.
  • Think, fibrous, coarsely shedding bark.
  • Has a pyramidal shape, serving great as an outdoor Christmas tree.

Tag us in a photo with your Arizona cypress!

Lacebark Elm: The Underdog

lacebark elm leaves

Photo Credit: Bri Weldon, Flickr

Considered a handsome and very durable tree, the Lacebark Elm is attractive as a street tree because of its ability to grow in adverse conditions and its relative freedom from the diseases that have ravaged many other Elm species. It earns its name from its distinctive bark that creates colorful patterns in its trunk resembling lace.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding a lacebark elm to your yard.

Environmental Conditions:

  • lacebark elm bark

    Photo Credit: Selena N.B.H., Flickr

    Lacebark elm grows well in rich, moist, well-drained, sandy, clay and loamy soils (hardiness zones 5-9).

  • Medium to fast growing tree, growing two to three feet a year and reaching 40-50 feet at maturity.
  • Full sun is ideal, but does well in multiple sun exposures.
  • Has some flood tolerance and drought resistance.

Physical Attributes:

  • Produces luscious, dark green leaves that change to yellow and red in the fall.
  • Has a distinctive bark that makes the tree stand out from others.
  •  Has a strong, rounded, crown making it ideal as a shade tree.

Do you have a lacebark elm? Tag us in a photo with it, we’d love to see!

Happy Banana Pudding Lovers Month!

 

Did you know that November marks Banana Pudding Lovers Month? That’s right, a whole month dedicated to the love of banana pudding! It was started by the Rodger’s family of Rodgers’ Banana Pudding Sauce as a way of re-creating childhood memories. And while banana “trees” may not live in the continental U.S., this month-long celebration is simply too good to pass up on.

Check out our take on banana pudding with Chef Thomas. Recipe below.

Banana Pudding

Pastry cream base:

4 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 vanilla bean

Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a simmer

 

8 oz egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

½ cup corn starch

Whisk all ingredients together and temper into the pastry cream base.

 

8 oz melted butter

3 mashed bananas

Add to tempered pastry cream base and cool for 4 hours

Layer with 3 cups graham cracker crumbs mixed with ½ cup sugar and 4 oz melted butter. Layer also with Whipped cream.

Tag us in a photo eating your favorite banana pudding recipe!