Spruce Tree Tops
The tree tops we use for winter decorations are white or black spruce tips, harvested in Northern Minnesota and Canada. The cutting of spruce tops is licensed by the state and provinces. It is actually a regenerative crop that can be harvested again and again. Grown in this manner, the tree tops will have the form and foliage of more mature trees, often bearing cones at a very small size.
Fresh tree tops are used for decorating outdoors, "planted" in pots, planter boxes or in-ground beds. To help them look their best, place them in a tight grouping to give the appearance of a single pyramidal tree. A 10 inch pot will need 5-6 tree tops; a 12 inch pot will need 6-7; and a 14 inch pot should be filled with 7-9 tops. If you have larger pots, place several jumbo tops in the center of the pot to give height to the arrangement, then plant out to the edges with regular spruce tops.
It is important to recut the base of the tree top before placing it in the soil. After making a fresh cut, push them 4-5 inches deep into a heavy, sandy soil. After arranging the tops the way you want them, water the soil thoroughly. Keep the soil moist until the ground freezes.
If you put out your tree tops early in the season, before the weather is reliably cold, consider spraying them with an antidesiccant such as WiltPrufä to help seal in their moisture. If the weather is warm and windy for several weeks after you plant your tree tops, you may have to replace a few to keep the arrangement looking good throughout the winter. Red ruskus makes an excellent accent in tree top arrangements. Ruskus is grown and harvested in Italy and dyed bright red. This process also preserves the plant so that it will last throughout the winter. Adding a few branches of ruskus to the tree top arrangement gives it a cheerful look and provides a dramatic flair. In addition to using ruskus, you can "spruce" up your tree top planter with lights, ornaments, bows, pine cones and other ornamental evergreen branches.© Bachman's 2007