Among the many e-mails to arrive in early December was a gem from a place in Charleston, South Carolina called Roots and Shoots Nursery. I have not been there but avidly follow their interesting instagram feed.
The Roots and Shoots idea — instead of buying a cut tree, buy a live native tree that can then be planted outside. While I had heard of buying a small table top live tree or a larger ball and burlap live tree, typically non-native, very heavy and recommended for no more than a week of indoor use, I had not heard of using one of my favorite native trees, the Eastern red cedar (Juniperus Virginiana). According to the folks at Roots and Shoots, this tree can be indoors for several weeks, requires only a weekly watering and there will be no needles to sweep up.
For more discussion of the attributes of Eastern red cedars, please click here. The huge advantage is the valuable addition you can later make to your garden. Larger trees can be planted outdoors in the mid-Atlantic in December and January, so long as you can dig in the soil. Smaller trees may be added to larger containers you may have. If you celebrate holidays other than Christmas, you may want to honor the Solstice, our move to 2020, or another milestone with a tree planting.
Where to find a native tree at this time of year? In the Northern Virginia – DC area, Merrifield Garden Center has Eastern red cedars in stock. In the Baltimore area, Valley View Farms says they have 3 to 4 foot Eastern red cedars in pots. Patuxent Nursery is selling smaller Eastern red cedars up to 4′ on-line. Also by mail order, Bower & Branch sells small Eastern white pines (Pinus Strobus), another great, but eventually quite large, native tree, in table top size. Kollar Nursery’s website notes Eastern white pines are in stock. Sun Nurseries in Howard County also has Eastern white pines in several sizes. Your favorite local nursery may also have one of these fairly common trees.
While many places sell live Christmas trees, most are not native. It might be fun to seek out a native live tree that will provide the habitat and food that Chesapeake birds and insects are looking for. I plan to give it a try and will report back to you.
Straight forward advice about what to do with an indoor live tree from Mike’s Backyard Nursery.
A great summary about using Eastern red cedar in your landscape from the Virginia Native Plant Society.