Larry Hodgson has published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings available to the public. This text was originally published in the newspaper Le soleil on January 6, 1990.
As the holiday season draws to a close, many people set aside this week to take down their Christmas decorations. They’re carefully placed in the back of a closet and forgotten about until the following year. And many people throw away their now faded tree with falling needles.
But what a waste! Because a cut Christmas tree can still be used for many months if you use your imagination!
An Exterior Decoration
Decorating the front of your house with a faded tree? Why not? Indeed, your beautiful landscaping, which so enhances the value of our home in the summer, is now out of sight under the snow and, ultimately, under a white carpet. All the houses in the neighborhood start to look the same. Why not embellish your home by “planting” your Christmas tree in a strategic place in front of your home, by pushing its stem into the snow? Its beautiful green coloring will last all winter and if a little snow falls, all the better! The green will be even more visible when adorned in white!
A cut Christmas tree is more advantageous for a facade than a real tree. Its conical shape is just as decorative… but it will never grow, thus guaranteeing that the view from your window will not be blocked by a “monster” 65 ft (20 m) high!
A Bird Tree!
Another possible use for a Christmas tree is as a shelter for local birds and animals. In fact, a fir tree in the snow in the backyard will provide shelter for many winged friends in cold weather, while cutting the wind that increases your home’s heating costs. To encourage birds to use the new shelter, simply decorate it with food! In fact, a few loaves of suet covered with various seeds—homemade or commercial—hung here and there among the branches will attract a host of birds. You can also hang the feeder you received at Christmas, filling it with various seeds.
It’s important, however, to remember to continue feeding the birds throughout the winter. Once birds become accustomed to a particular area, they become dependent on it for survival. Cutting off food before spring can be a death sentence!
Cover Your Garden With It!
Die-hard gardeners use fir branches as winter mulch… and rightly so! Nothing beats evergreen branches to hold the snow in place on the garden for as long as possible and thus protect it from cold weather.
You should know that the worst danger for a garden is not the cold, but the thaw. An early thaw-and we often get one in the middle of winter!—can seriously damage even plants that are normally very hardy. By covering the bed with fir branches, which form an insulating layer, we can keep the snow on our garden as long as possible. The longer the snow lasts on a garden, the more beautiful it will be the following summer.
So don’t hesitate to cut the branches of your Christmas tree to cover all the flowerbeds around your house. But what happens in the spring?
When the snow melts and there’s no more frost to hold the needles in place, you still have to throw away your Christmas tree, right? Well, not necessarily!
The spring sun will gladly knock off the needles without any effort on your part (these, by the way, enrich the garden soil as they fall). All that remains is the skeleton of the tree – a series of bare branches placed in concentric circles.
What Can We Do With This?
Well, when Jacques Cartier settled in Canada, he must have seen the natives using dead fir trees in this way. They placed them in their vegetable garden, placing their tip in the ground, and planted climbing bean seeds in a circle around them. The plant soon climbed up on this very original stake, which had the effect of raising the leaves out of the reach of slugs and making it possible to harvest without bending over. You can still do the same thing today, but we now have a wider range of climbing plants: beans (you have to go for the good old climbing beans our grandparents used, not the small dwarf varieties of today), tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, etc., and – why not? – decorative plants like morning glory, cobia, ornamental hops, etc.
So don’t throw your Christmas tree in the garbage. It’ll be a great addition to your yard for months to come.