OPINION

THE GARDEN GUY: North Pole perfect for living Christmas tree

If you are thinking of an arborvitae for your entrance, consider the North Pole arborvitae. (TNS/Norman Winter)
If you are thinking of an arborvitae for your entrance, consider the North Pole arborvitae. (TNS/Norman Winter)


The North Pole is waiting for you! I'm not talking about a geographic location or small village where Jolly Saint Nick and his crew are making toys, but a tree or shrub that will put you in the holiday spirit for this season and years to come. North Pole is a selection of arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis, that will have you singing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

I've seen displays of them at a local garden center recently and they even had red ribbons as if shouting to shoppers: "Here is your living Christmas tree!" But stop the presses: This beautiful North Pole arborvitae is not just for Christmas. It can become your front porch focal point come spring, the pinnacle of your patio garden in the summer and of course, your "Living Christmas Tree" next year too.

The Garden Guy got two North Pole arborvitae in 2021 and since has fallen madly in love with them. You may also find other conifers to suit your Christmas needs. The Garden Guy is a closet conifer junkie. That being confessed, another one of my favorite living Christmas trees that I have going is Soft Serve Gold false cypress. The false cypress is known botanically as Chamaecyparis pisifera.

It is recommended for zones 4-8, and as the name suggests, it has foliage that is bright and golden throughout the year. (Arkansas is in planting zones 6-8 with most of the state now in zone 8, due to climate change.) So, for Christmas it was adorned with lights and ornaments and in May showing out as the thriller plant with Superbells Tangerine Punch and Black Currant Punch calibrachoas and a lime green Dolce heuchera.

The front porch area is where my Christmas display is set up. It is hard to believe this area so close to the front door is frequently visited by deer, foxes and other creatures that I do not know. It is not uncommon to find several Christmas ornaments from the trees glistening brightly 30 feet away down the slope. So, The Garden Guy is relegated to using decorations that will not break once they hit the concrete surface.

I planted my living Christmas trees in the self-watering ceramic AquaPots. I have a combination of tall red and shorter white selections to add to the holiday color scheme and to partner with lighted candy canes. I added a couple of strings of white lights to make it festive. The self-watering AquaPots really come in handy as December watering chores are mostly eliminated.

This spring will come decision time as the six conifers I have in AquaPots will be starting year four, and I expect are root bound. I'll pull a couple to check the root system and see if they need to head to spots in the landscape. I am already planning for Christmas of 2024 and this will play into my decision making. I have two small new shrubs called Berry Box Pyracomeles growing on the patio in white AquaPots.

Berry Box is an exciting new plant. Botanically speaking, Pyracomeles is a hybrid of the Pyracantha and Osteomeles and has no thorns. So next year if everything goes accordingly, the white AquaPots with berry laden Pyracomeles bushes will be in front of tall red AquaPots with North Pole arborvitae. Sounds pretty and festive too!

Consider the North Pole arborvitae for a living Christmas tree this year. Your children or grandchildren will get a kick out of the name and have fun helping decorate it too.

Norman Winter is a horticulturist, garden speaker and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden."

  photo  This North Pole arborvitae is the focal point of this patio display. (TNS/Norman Winter)