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Buy local when choosing a tree

As families continue their search for the perfect Christmas tree, three Cornell University experts who work closely with New York Christmas tree producers offer advice for picking and preserving holiday trees.

Brian Eshenaur a plant pathologist, specializing in plant diagnostics, is a senior extension associate with the New York State Integrated Pest Management program. He suggests – sight, touch and smell – when picking your tree.

“Look for a tree with a good solid-green color. Needle yellowing or a slight brown speckled color could lead to early needle drop.

“Don’t be afraid to handle and bend the branches and shoots. Avoid a tree if green needles come off in your hand or the shoots crack or snap with handling.

“Christmas trees should smell good. If there isn’t much fragrance when you flex the needles, it may mean that the tree was cut too long ago.”

Lee Dean, lead arborist for Cornell Botanic Gardens, explains the best variety of trees for fragrance, needles and branch strength. He also suggests considering a living tree.

“For fragrance: My favorite is Douglas Fir — the citrus scent is phenomenal. Blue Spruce is also a good choice, with its wintergreen fragrance.

“For soft needles that won’t scratch: Douglas Fir — when young, it and other firs typically have more pliable branches and softer needles than spruce.

“For heartier branches: Select a spruce variety if you deck your tree to the hilt.

″ For needle retention: Generally, if the tree was freshly cut, needle retention relates to how well you care for the tree, once it’s in your home. Monitoring the water level is very important — keep water above the bottom of the trunk. Place the tree away from a heat source and turn off lights at night — this greatly reduces fire hazards and saves energy.

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