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The Gift of the Blue Spruce

December 24, 2009

Blue spruce as Christmas tree (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The blue spruce tree entered my life as a gift. Twenty years ago, when I first bought this property, a friend brought me six tiny spruce (Picea) seedlings that she had received from the Arbor Day Foundation. This was a bit like carrying coals to Newcastle, since my property is heavily wooded. But since white pine (Pinus strobus) and hemlock (Tsuga) trees dominate the woods around my house and there are no firs (Abies) or spruces here, I was happy to dot a few spruce trees around the edge of the woods to the west of the house.

Two of these gift seedlings were blue spruces, trees that grow to be about 60’ tall. I planted one of these on the front corner of the property and one at the edge of the woods at the back of the house. Years later, when I added a deck to the back of the house, I realized that the blue spruce was too close  and would be an oppressive presence looming over the deck when it matured. So, I decided to cut the blue spruce down at Christmas and bring it in for a Christmas tree.

Blue spruce tree waiting to move indoors (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)This was the year when the tree was the right size. I shoveled a path through the 10-12 inches of snow to reach the tree and then dug away the snow around its base to make it more easily accessible. My folding bow saw made quick work of cutting the tree off at the base. I then brought the tree up onto the deck where it rested a few days before I got a chance to bring it in and set it up.

I should note that a spruce tree is a prickly house guest. I have been reminded repeatedly of the “3F” mnemonic that naturalists at Acadia National Park in Maine use to help children distinguish fir trees from spruce trees in the fir-spruce forest; fir trees, they tell them, are unlike spruce trees because the firs have flat needles, are fragrant, and are friendly – if you shake hands with a fir, it won’t hurt you. Spruce trees are very definitely not friendly to the touch, and I have worn heavy gloves to handle this one. Nevertheless, this blue spruce is the perfect Christmas tree for those who, like me, are charmed by trees that are homey, imperfect, and look like they have a history. And so, the blue spruce tree which began as a gift from a friend is now bringing the gift of Christmas joy into my home.

And Christmas will not be the end of its giving. When the holidays are over and the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away, the blue spruce will be hauled out to a dry streambed in the woods east of the house, where it will join the ghosts of Christmas trees past in providing the gift of habitat to birds and small animals and, as it decomposes, the gift of nutrients returned to the soil.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2009 5:33 pm

    Beautiful Christmas Tree, and a lovely story to go along with it. I like the 3Fs mnemonic, we did a little pruning of a large blue sprice this summer and I was surprised at how unfriendly the needles were. Have a very Merry Christmas! 🙂 Rebecca

  2. December 24, 2009 7:35 pm

    Merry Christmas, Jean!

  3. December 24, 2009 7:58 pm

    Lovely Christmas Tree Jean! Great that you could use your own home grown tree! Merry Christmas! Carol

    • Jean permalink*
      December 24, 2009 9:10 pm

      Rebecca, Noelle, and Carol, Thank you all for your Christmas wishes. I wish you all the happiest of Christmases.

  4. December 24, 2009 10:18 pm

    I enjoyed your post, Jean! Merry Christmas!!!

  5. December 25, 2009 5:23 am

    Merry Christmas dear Jean xxx

  6. Kiki permalink
    December 26, 2009 2:31 pm

    Gorgeous trees!! Lovely post always! Trees are so magnificent arent they!!

    • Jean permalink*
      December 27, 2009 6:05 pm

      Kiki, I share your love of trees, and I count myself lucky to live in the most heavily forested state of the US. When I first moved to southern Pennsylvania in the 1980s, I felt as though something was “wrong” with the landscape — even though the Gettysburg area is considered to be very beautiful. It was only when a drive to the north took me through a national forest that I realized it was trees I had been missing.

  7. December 26, 2009 3:43 pm

    That is the best kind of Christmas tree- one with friendship in it’s history. I love it!

    Merry Christmas, Jean, and I hope you have a very Happy and healthy, AND prosperous New Year!

  8. December 26, 2009 4:02 pm

    Hi Jean~~ Beautiful tree but indeed one must have a level of intrepid fearlessness to forge an up close and personal relationship with it. Years ago with its characteristic blood thirsty nature unawares, hubby and I bought a blue spruce Christmas tree. Worth it in the end, the decorating was painful to say the least. Merry Christmas to you.

    • Jean permalink*
      December 27, 2009 6:07 pm

      Janie, I do love the fact that this is a tree with character, but Grace is right about it’s “blood thirsty nature.”

      Grace, do you think anyone ever chooses a blue spruce as a Christmas tree a second time?

  9. December 28, 2009 12:15 am

    I have a blue spruce which originally was a living Christmas tree. It won’t live very long because of our hot summers, but I think it is so beautiful. I am thinking about cutting it down and using it again as a Christmas tree next year.

    • Jean permalink*
      December 28, 2009 10:37 am

      Deborah, As long as you don’t mind it reaching out and pinching you every time you walk by, the blue spruce makes a fine Christmas tree. One of the things I love about trees that have grown naturally (as opposed to the repeatedly pruned and shaped commercial trees) is that they have spaces between the branches where ornaments can actually hang down.

  10. December 28, 2009 1:23 pm

    Growing your own makes moot the question of live or artificial. What a lovely post.

    • Jean permalink*
      December 28, 2009 8:34 pm

      I have never been seriously tempted by an artificial tree. I love the evergreen scent of a real tree; and, since many of the commercial trees sold in the northeast come from Maine, freshly cut, local trees are easily available here at a reasonable price. Many people in this relatively poor rural state supplement their income by growing and/or selling Christmas trees, so buying a live tree is also a way of helping neighbors and the community economy.

  11. December 30, 2009 7:38 am

    How wonderful to have a tree from your very own garden as a Christmas tree. Thanks for an interesting post. Barbara

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