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Life with monster Christmas trees.

Sunset readers tell how to support, decorate, and water big cut trees

CERTAINLY, WE'D ALL like to identify with the living tree article on page 62. But the cold facts are, many of us prefer plantation-grown, shaped or sheared Douglas fir, Monterey pine, Noble fir, Colorado blue spruce, or Scotch pine cut at a tree farm or whisked home from the corner lot.

And, boy, do we ever like 'em BIG.

Home buyers see a vaulted living room ceiling in July and envision a majestic, decked-out tree reaching its ridge in December. Remodelers install double front doors to make getting the monster into the house a simpler task, or raise the roof and push out walls to accommodate a big tree. Those two-story entry halls are just the places for big evergreens.

How do we know this? Scores of Sunset readers told us last December when they responded to our question "How do you put up a really big tree?" According to our respondents, a big tree isn't just a tradition. Choosing one and setting it up is a family adventure and a quest, for some even an albatross.

How do you get one indoors, set it up, and keep it up? Here are answers. Our readers have learned a lot of lessons over the years, and we share their tips.


Hard-core big tree folks cut their own, particularly in the Northwest's timber country, where there's access to larger, less expensive trees than elsewhere. Beyond timber country, expect to pay a king's ransom for a big tree, especially if you have it delivered. For a more reasonable price, you may be able to find an unwieldy ugly duckling at a Christmas tree lot.

The challenge is to buy a big tree that's just the right height. Several readers lug to the lot a pole the height of the tree they want, to make sure they're not off on their eyeballing. "We've learned since the first tree to measure before we bring it inside," one sensible reader wrote.


Our respondents are a creative bunch. To steady big trees, they wedge them into washtubs, or set them into rock-filled 5-gallon buckets or in oil-changing pans mounted to plywood bases.

To protect floors from water spills, they put a covering such as a plastic drop cloth under a plywood square attached to the stand. One reader cut the corners off the plywood--tree skirts are a lot more likely to cover an octagon than a square.

Are these solutions inventive? Yes. Trustworthy? Not always. We read too many letters relating the heart-breaking year the tree toppled and the heirloom ornaments were shattered.

To keep the tree from toppling, many respondents take additional precautions: they tie off the tree to a well-placed ceiling hook, to eyelets set into the tops of a window casing, to stair rails, or to points on the surrounding walls. A couple of readers hide concrete piers behind the tree, then run line from eye screws set in the pier blocks way up the trunk of the tree.

If you'd rather not devise your own Christmas tree stand, you can buy a ready-made one especially designed for big trees. The photograph above shows the three kinds most often recommended to us. All are sturdy, and two have generous basins attached (without a tree in place, they'll hold at least 2 gallons of water). The Davis model at left is designed so the trunk slips into a big bucket.

Look for these stands at tree lots, hardware and discount stores, and nurseries.


Respondents to our survey want fresh trees; that's why most of them cut their own. And they make every effort to keep the trees fresh, so the tree stands they design or buy include ample reservoirs. (Trunks of big trees are fatter than you might think; by the time you get one stuffed into a small reservoir, you may be filling the remaining space with an eyedropper.)

Count on some big trees to suck up lots of water, depending on the species; some readers needed to fill reservoirs three or four times a day for the first few days, then twice a day. Grand firs can absorb three times as much water as the more common Douglas firs.


Attack a tree while it's down? Some readers decorate the tops--or at least string the lights--while a big tree is lying on the ground.

Many use extension poles to hang ornaments from hard-to-reach limbs. The simplest method reported--a bent nail at the end of a broom handle--may be the most effective. Or you can try this original spin technique, devised by a Nevada reader: hang the tree from an eye hook set into the ridge beam so it barely touches the floor.

An Oregon reader agrees: "It can be decorated from one place--you turn the tree instead of lifting and moving the scaffolding."


Strip the tree of its decoration, then pull the last of the water out of the reservoir with a turkey baster. To get the tree out of the house easily and to keep the mess centralized, you can cut the tree into smaller pieces. Otherwise, you'll still be finding needles along your exit route on the Fourth of July.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Crosby, Bill
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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