Our idealized traditional Christmas scenes and traditions come to us courtesy of Currier & Ives. Snow scenes, ice skating and bringing home the freshly cut Christmas tree were popularized by their inexpensive lithographs of America life in the mid-late 1800s.

Trudging through the snow to cut a Christmas tree is limited today as we rarely have snow on Christmas, but we still can find our very special tree in the woods to bring home to decorate. As it does each year, Land Between the Lakes issues permits a family to cut only one specified variety of tree. This year, wonderfully fragrant Cedar may be cut between now and Dec. 24.

Before cutting the perfect tree check to see how healthy it is, is the foliage evenly green and dense and are any branches broken or diseased. Cut the trunk close to the ground and securely tie the branches. Additionally, wrapping it will reduce wind dehydration during transport.

Once home, recut the trunk at an angle to give more surface for water up-take. The stand should be sturdy, fit the tree trunk, and have a good water capacity. The water temperature does not make any difference. Keep away from heat and draft sources, check water daily, and add a small amount of chlorine to retard bacterial growth. Tree lights, even LEDs, will dry out the foliage. For safety reasons, turn off lights when out of the house and at bedtime.

Do not mistake a pine for cedar. Pine has very sticky white sap, bundles of soft to sharp, long to short needles and a medicinal aroma. Cedar has been described as having a soft fern-like foliage that is in bundles along the branches. I find its foliage prickly.

LBL Christmas tree permit and information are available online only at www.landbetweenthelakes.us/reservations. Cutting rules(maximum of 10’) and regulations are on the reservations page.

THINGS TO DO

Garden — Install quick-release hose connections for ease of un-attaching garden hoses. Before daytime temperatures are consistently at freezing, unreel the hose to completely drain it. Loosely spread 12” of mulch around roses. Pull it back on warm days.

Houseplants- Add kalanchoe(KAL-en-KOH-ee) to traditional Christmas decor. The tropical stonecrop member is noted for its thick green foliage and cluster of red to yellow flowers. Continue to water-force a few daffodils, hyacinths and amaryllis each week for successive blooms.

Lawn — Cow mulch yard leaves. Mow with discharge away from hard surfaces but toward shrubs. The shredded leaves will provide them with light-weight winter protection. Do not pile up against trees.

Trees and shrubs — Mulch crape myrtles to 4” deep making sure it is more than 3” from the trunk. Cut holly to decorate in and outside. Submerge in water overnight, criss-cross cut thick stems for greater water up-take. Spray with an anti-desiccant to retard drying out. Avoid decorating indoors with holly and nandina that have berries as they contain toxins(saponin and hydrogen cyanide respectively) that can cause distress in pets. They should be taken to the vet immediately. The berries can cause nausea and vomiting in children.

EVENT

Today — 1850s Christmas at the Homeplace, 10:00am-3:00pm, LBL, 4512 The Trace, Dover, Tennessee, Santa will visit in the afternoon. For more information: 931-232-6457.

Today through November 30 — Golden Pond Planetarium, LBL, 238 Visitor Center Drive, LBL For program information, admission fees, and times: 270-924-2233.

December 1, Lunch Break Gardening Series, Marshall Co. Ext. Office, 12:15-12:45pm, 1922 Mayfield Rd., Benton. For registration 270-527-3285 by Nov 29. Cost $10 includes boxed lunch. The series will be held the first Wednesday of each month.

December 11 — Whitehaven Christmas Open House. Visitors are treated to a tour, music, and refreshments. Each room and halls are decorated a different garden club. For more information: 270-554-2077. The tour is free.

Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun’s gardening columnist at, carolynroof02@gmail.com

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