The Colorado blue spruce is not only our state tree but one of the most attractive evergreens found in our diocese. The blue spruce — along with the Fraser fir, balsam fir, white pine, scotch pine and white spruce — all make fine, fresh Christmas trees. Tis the season for trees and boughs and a bright star to help us find the way.
You can identify the blue spruce by its gray-brown bark; look for thicker scales on mature trees. The needles are blue to dull green and blue, 1 to 1¼ inches long, and are sharp and stiff. The blue spruce can grow 65 to 115 feet tall and up to 30 feet wide.
The natural habitat of this tree is in the forests of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming between 5,900 and 9,800 feet. It flourishes along streams and mountain valleys. The blue spruce plays an important role in our environment by providing shelter for birds, small animals and insects. It supplies nourishment for squirrels, the spruce grouse and also emits oxygen into the air. It is a popular choice among landscapers and is an excellent species to utilize as a windbreaker.
Today, Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states for the holiday season. In the 1500s, Christmas trees were only used in foreign lands and put up in homes undecorated. The oldest record of a decorated Christmas tree was found in Germany written in a diary dated 1605 where the Christmas tree was decorated with candy, paper flowers, and apples. The first Christmas tree recorded in the United States was in 1747, and the tradition of decorating came later in the year 1842. By 1850, decorating trees was considered fashionable, but only in eastern states. In 1851, the first Christmas tree lot was opened in New York and in 1856, President Franklin Pierce was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House.
While the Colorado blue spruce makes a beautiful Christmas tree, it is also invaluable outdoors. A recent article suggested that, with the rising costs of fresh cut trees, one might consider purchasing a live, potted evergreen tree from a local nursery, use it as this season’s Christmas tree, and then plant it outside. What a great garden-investment idea.
Remember to keep your Christmas tree out of the landfill and turn it into useful garden mulch. There are six convenient locations in our diocese that offer tree recycling for a $5 suggested minimum donation benefiting Colorado Springs Youth Sports, the El Pomar Youth Sports Park and several area youth service organizations. Boy Scout Troop 246 at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish is offering tree pick-up on Jan. 1, Jan. 8, Jan. 15 and Jan. 22 for zip codes in northern Colorado Springs. Call 719-357-7407 or send an email to email@example.com for more information.
Rocky Top Resources will also have extended hours Dec. 23-30, Jan. 3-15 and Jan. 18-31 from 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturdays (Closed Sundays). Keep in mind when recycling this is trees only — no stands, stand spikes, garland, plastic, twine, tinsel, etc. Donations can also be made at givebutter.com/tree.
A star placed atop a Christmas tree is a beacon of light from heaven. The Star of Bethlehem, also referred to as the “Christmas Star,” guided the wise men to the birthplace of Jesus. When the wise men saw the star, they were filled with great joy. They found the baby with Mary his mother and worshipped him. They presented unto him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The first Christmas. We can only imagine what those moments must have been like. A Savior was born, born unto us. What greater gift could there be!
(Kerry Peetz is a master gardener and a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs.)