by Donna Torrey 

Traditionally, this is the time when families buy their Christmas trees. While most Christmas trees are farmed, and not taken from the wild, it does take a considerable amount of resources to get one to market. Most purchased trees that we use for decorating are, on average, ten years old! That’s ten years of watering, fertilizing, pest control, herbicide, mowing, pruning, and finally, cutting and delivering them all across our land. It’s anything but natural or sustainable, if you really think it through. In fact, your holiday decoration has a heavy carbon footprint.


This year, instead of buying a dead Christmas tree (and most families will spend an average of $50 for a dead tree!), why not consider beginning a new tradition with your family and plant a living one?

If you want a traditional look, you can find a good substitute in the Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica). It is well adapted to our hot temperatures, sandy soils, and dry season. It is remarkably beautiful, with ice blue arching branches in the style and shape of our beloved evergreens up North. The striking silver color adds fabulous contrast to the sometimes monotone of green in our landscapes. At maturity, it will probably reach no more than 20 feet, with a 10 foot spread. Place it in a very sunny area, with enough room for its arms to reach out wide to show off its classic conical shape.

Arizona Cypress is not only beautiful to look at, but it provides much-needed habitat for our snowbirds—the real ones, our winter migratory birds, such as several varieties of Warblers, American Goldfinch, Robins, Painted and Indigo Buntings, Cedar Waxwings, and many other spectacular and valuable species. If you love to watch and listen to the wild birds, then providing much needed shelter from cold and storms and places to nest and raise young is imperative to actually seeing them in your landscape. The Arizona Cypress will do just that.

If you want to use a living tree for holiday decoration, you can place it indoors near a sunny window and keep it watered. They are best suited for tabletops. After the holidays are over, you now have a tree to place in your yard where it will become a living memory of special people and happy times. You have also created habitat for wildlife, and offset your carbon footprint.

A living Christmas tree is a gift that keeps on giving. 

Donna Torrey is the owner of The Garden Gate, located at Sears in the Pompano Citi-Center on Federal Highway, where she specializes in native, edible, and sustainable gardening. For more information call 954-783-4283. See ad page 55.