Monday, November 26, 2007

Keeping Your Christmas Tree Fresh

Before setting out to purchase your perfect Christmas tree, determine where in the home the tree will be located, the size required, and whether all sides will be displayed. Other characteristics such as tree density, color, and fragrance should also be considered. Next, determine whether a cut tree or one "balled and burlapped" is to be purchased, or if a visit to a "choose and cut " farm is preferred.

Once a tree is purchased, keeping it fresh requires watering on a regular basis and avoiding high temperatures. If the tree is bought several days before it is to be decorated, it should be stored outside in a cool, shaded area. The base should be sawed on a diagonal about one inch above the original cut, and the base placed in a container of water. Sprinkling or misting the tree with water will also help retain freshness, but the tree should not be soaked.

Whether stored or not, before bringing the tree in the house, a square cut should be sawed on the base. The base of the tree should be kept in water throughout entire period that the tree is in use. The water level in the stand should be checked daily. Research has indicated that water additives are not needed and may even result in excessive drying.

The tree should be well supported and placed away from sources of heat. Tree lights should not be left on unless someone is at home, and should be turned off when the family goes to bed. Electrical cords should also be checked for any signs of damage or wear. Trees do not cause fires but will support combustion when dry. Dry trees should be removed before they create a fire hazard.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Natural Christmas Tree Ornaments

Henderson County Master Gardener, Tamsin Allpress, is guiding a ornament making workshop at the Bullington Center on December 5th, 2007. She will help all participants to create beautiful natural ornaments to use in decorating for the Holiday Season. To register for this workshop, call 698-6104 and start collecting berries, leaves, and other plant parts for use. Cost $15.00.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wreath Clinic

It is once again time for the Master Gardener wreath making workshop. This year the workshop will be held on Friday, December 7th and Saturday, December 8th from 11:00 – 1:00pm. Class size will be limited each day to 35 participants. Because this class is so popular, pre-registration is required by Friday, November 30th. Materials and assorted greenery for one wreath will be provided. You are asked to bring your own gloves, hand pruners, and any additional decorations you may want to use on your wreath. The cost of the workshop is $15 and will be held at the Haywood County Cooperative Extension office at 589 Raccoon Road in Waynesville.

For more information or to register please call 456-3575

Monday, November 5, 2007

Why Leaves Change Color

You may have noticed that leaf color varies every year. Leaf color is most spectacular when the right combination of factors are present. Scientists don't fully understand all of the complicated interactions that cause the best display of leaf color, but they do know that leaf pigments, length of night, the type of tree, genetic variation, and the weather all play a role.

Where Do Leaves Get Their Autumn Colors?
Tree and plant leaves contain pigments that give them their color. Three pigments are involved in fall color:
· Chlorophyll — gives leaves their green color.
· Carotenoids — provide the yellow, orange, and brown colors
· Anthocyanins — give the red and purple colors.
In contrast to the other two pigments, anthocyanins are produced in the autumn, in response to bright light and excess plant sugars in the leaf cells.
During the growing season, most tree leaves are green because they are full of chlorophyll. Plants use chlorophyll to capture sunlight for photosynthesis, the process that enables them to manufacture their own food. The amount of chlorophyll is so high during the summer that the green color masks all other pigments present in the leaf. As the days grow shorter in the fall, chlorophyll production slows down and eventually stops. The carotenoids and anthocyanins that are present in the leaf then become visible.

Do Different Kinds of Trees Turn Different Colors?
Certain colors of leaves are characteristic of particular species of trees.
· Oaks turn red, brown, or russet;
· Hickories turn golden bronze;
· Dogwood turns purplish red;
· Beech turns light tan;
· Red maple turns brilliant scarlet;
· Sugar maple turns orange-red;
· Black maple turns glowing yellow;
· Sourwood and black tupelo turn crimson;
· Aspen, birch, and yellow-poplar turn golden yellow.

Leaves of some species such as the elms simply shrivel up and fall off, exhibiting little color other than brown. The timing of the color change also varies by species. Sourwood in southern forests can become vividly colorful in late summer while all other species are still green. Oaks put on their colors long after other species have already shed their leaves. These differences in timing among species seem to be genetically inherited. The timing of color change for certain species appears to be consistent regardless of local weather patterns or changes in latitude.

Why Are Some Autumns More Colorful?
Temperature and moisture greatly influence autumn color. Since each of these vary greatly, no two autumns are ever alike. A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. Since carotenoids are always present in leaves, yellow and gold colors are fairly constant from year to year. In order for the brilliant scarlet, purple and crimson colors to develop, bright sunlight in the early fall is needed. Bright sunny days increases food production in trees and plants. These sugars are trapped in the leaves spurring the production of anthocyanin pigments, providing the red tints to fall foliage.

The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn color. A late spring, or a severe summer drought, can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks. A warm period during fall lowers the intensity of autumn color. Trees defoliated by insects during the growing season may also show less fall color.

Taken from United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service;
Northeastern Area Fact Sheet SP-01-01