‘Tis the Season for Living Trees

For those who celebrate, it is hard to imagine the holiday season without a fragrant pine tree in the house. But it is also hard to ignore how unsustainable this tradition is: a cut tree is grown miles away, shipped here, driven to its destination, briefly enjoyed and then discarded. Thankful

ly, here in Los Angeles and elsewhere, there is another option — a living Christmas tree.

A living Christmas tree is just what it sounds like: one that is still alive and potted in soil. Joel and I have adopted a living Christmas tree every year since 1997. We water our living tree regularly, using ice cubes. We decorate it gently with lightweight ornaments. We use today’s cooler LED Christmas lights, and no flocking or tinsel. After the holidays, we plant the tree in our yard or a friend’s yard.

If you’re interested in a living Christmas tree, be sure to look for varieties that are well-suited to your local climate. In Southern California, consider a Leyland Cypress, a Juniper, a Thuja or the Mondell Pine, which thrives in hot arid climates. Unless you have a large property with a variety of planting sites, it helps to decide where you’ll plant the tree before you actually buy one. If you don’t own your yard, or don’t have a location suitable for planting a living Christmas tree, you can still buy to enjoy during the holidays and find a community organization to accept your donation.

When making that living tree decision, keep in mind how it will be cared for once Christmas is over. According to TreePeople, “…[I]t takes five years to plant a tree. Putting it in the ground is the easy part. Ensuring it survives takes a bit more sustained and conscious effort. But… planning and care pay off in beauty, shade, food, birds, health, and a more sustainable environment.”

To purchase, consider Boething Treeland Farms, where we have always found our trees. This year, they have the following types available that are suitable for the SoCal climate:

  • 5g + 15g Leyland Cypress
  • 5g + 15g Blue Point Juniper
  • 5g Thuja Golden
  • 5g + 7g + 15g Mondell Pine
  • 25g Serpintine Cedar

Or try your area nurseries. Marina del Rey Garden Center has a selection, as does Armstrong Garden Centers (call your local store to make sure).

And for next year, check out The Living Christmas Company (TLCCo), a South Bay-based company that rents living Christmas trees. If you live (almost) anywhere from the Valley to San Diego, TLCCo will deliver your choice of tree type and size. When the holidays are over, TLCCo will pick up the rented tree and return it to the nursery where it will grow happily until the next year. All the trees are local varieties, locally grown.

After all, if the tree is a symbol of a season that celebrates new life, joy and hope – why wouldn’t we opt for a symbol that is itself living and a step toward hope for our planet?