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When you team up two scrawny Douglas firs....

When you team up two scrawny Douglas firs . . .

"The scrawny, misshapen evergreen was far too ugly to ever be chosen as a Christmas tree. But then it teamed up with another just like it--and together they became the prettiest tree ever!'

This isn't the plot from a children's story. It's the way the Todd Brandoff family of Lolo, Montana, comes up with its Christmas tree every years. Instead of spending a bundle to buy one perfect tree, the Brandoffs choose two or three spindly ones, then put them together to form what resembles a single full tree.

"Whether we shop at a tree farm or lot,' says Mr. Brandoff, "trees with gaping vacancies and imbalanced branching are usually cheaper. If we get a permit to cut in the national forest, we do nature a good turn by harvesting weaklings and leaving the more beautiful plants to flourish uncramped.' (Before you cut, ask for a permit at the ranger station.)

At home, Mr. Brandoff positions his choices with skimpiest sides facing inward and ties the trunks together with garden twine at the top, middle, and just above the lowest branches. He then weaves the branches past one another, pruning some off or cutting them back. Then he saws a few inches off the trunks to even them and let the trees take up water more easily.

With a helper, Mr. Brandoff stands the resulting tree in a bucket that sits atop a 4-foot square of 3/4-inch plywood with eye screws at each corner.

To stabilize it, he places some fist-size stones in the bucket around the trunks. For additional support, he ties a length of twine from each eye screw to the trunks, about a third of the way up the tree.

The idea's worth trying with Douglas firs or pines--but it probably wouldn't work as well with stiffer, more formal true firs (Abies) or spruces (Picea).

Photo: Two trees cut from a clump of spindly Douglas firs (above) go into a bucket (right) to form a bushier single tree
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1987
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