Island Christmas Tree Alternatives

After many years of experimenting with Christmas tree options, I’m glad to be in a place where almost anything goes. This year I kept it very simple.

Perhaps more than anywhere else in the nation, Floridians seem to find more variations on the Christmas tree than those who live in snow country. Since so many of the traditional Christmas symbols are not part of the Florida experience anyway, we may as well improvise and have fun with it all.

Before moving to Florida from Colorado, we found natural Christmas trees were affordable and a pleasure to bring home. Usually, we bought a permit for a few dollars from the Forest Service, bundled up, and snow-shoed or cross-country skied through deep snow looking for trees that did not have a bright future, for example those growing directly under power lines. This was probably as close as it gets to the classic Christmas tree tradition. It was wonderful, and beautiful, but sometimes it was very cold and it usually took a lot of time.

Christmas tree So we tried buying a live tree one year, which theoretically could be planted outside after Christmas, but that did not work well. I think it’s too much to expect the same tree to survive both indoors by the fire and then outdoors in a blizzard. Our timing in moving it was probably to blame.

We had more success with a large indoor Norfolk pine, which grew in the sunspace that heated our mountain solar home. It had started in a local restaurant as a tiny Christmas table decoration, and had a crook in its trunk, making it a real Charlie Brown tree. But after years in our solarium, it had straightened and made an acceptable Christmas tree.

Although it would be possible to grow a Norfolk pine indoors in Florida, it’s not as appealing an idea, since they thrive outdoors all around us, making the pot-bound indoor tree look spindly in comparison. But a few years ago, we improvised with the top of a Norfolk pine which the power company had cut and left at the side of the road as they trimmed around power lines. I dragged it into the van and drove it home, standing it in a bucket in the living room, and decorating it.

Even when a pine is not topped in the neighborhood, our Anna Maria Island homes generate a surprising amount of “yard waste,” and it’s worth being open minded about using some of the larger cuttings as greenery to bring inside and decorate for the holidays. After all, we decorate our outside palm trees with holiday lights and the results can be just as enchanting indoors. Ornaments can be added, and even tinsel.

The choices for artificial trees are endless, and it seems that the more unnatural ones fit in Florida better than in most places. In the world of Florida style, it is not surprising to see something other than the traditional look of pine or spruce. I would be less shocked to see a pink tree in Florida than I would in Maine. But many Floridians join the rest of the country in going with the best available artificial tree for as natural a look as possible.

When we see such trees well decorated it’s easy to feel transported to whatever place Christmas holds for us in our minds. After all, Christmas is a state of mind, a collection of uplifting associations, and the color of the tree really does not matter.

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