Hello fellow readers,
I visited with Anne of Lafayette NJ last week and was delighted to see that she still has her Christmas tree. “It’s so fresh, I don’t have the heart to toss it out.” She combed a branch with her hand and not one needle dropped. Anne modified the decorations since Christmas with white lights, an artistic metal star topper, and birds and snowmen grace the branches. She’ll add hearts and red bows for Valentines and maybe shamrocks for St. Patty’s if it stays fresh that long. It’s a Canaan fir, a name I had never heard of, with soft dark green needles with narrow white bands below that give it a bluish cast. Anne lives in a farmhouse and her landlord, a farmer with Christmas trees, gave her the tree which was freshly cut.
Turns out Canaan fir, pronounced Ka-naan, is another common name for West Virginia balsam fir or bracted balsam fir (Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis). The name came from one place where it originates – the Canaan Valley in West Virginia. Balsam fir (Abies balsamea var. balsamea) is the other variety. Both are native to northeastern United Sates and eastern and central Canada and grow 40 to 55 feet tall, 20 to 25 feet wide, and are hardy from zone 3 to 5 or 6. While popular Christmas trees, they are seldom used in landscapes in these parts, though they would be stunning. I asked my go-to nurseryman if they’ve ever sold Canaan Fir. Ben Jansen, of E.P. Jansen Nursery in Florida, NY, said most folks go for the Concolor Fir (Abies concolor), “only because it’s a little more deer resistant, but not by much, and more readily available.” All firs (Abies balsamea, A. fraseri, and A. concolor) are considered Occasionally Severely Damaged on the Rutgers Deer Resistant list. So, in deer country (seems everywhere these days) adding a deer fence or a furry canine to chase deer from your Canaan fir (smile) may be a best bet.
As I was leaving, Anne shared that where her Canaan fir stands is where Molly’s bed was. Molly, what a grand pup, joined the angels just before Christmas. “When it’s time to take the tree out, I’ll put something else there.” I thought to myself, another plant would be fitting. There’s a lovely African violet named ‘My Molly’ with white-edged purple flowers perhaps I can track down. And a reddish-purple ‘Miss Molly’ butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii, perfect for her outside garden where Molly used to lounge. Most certainly it will attract a dance of butterflies and hummingbirds in honor of her dear girl. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com
I wish I had taken a photo of Anne’s decorated Canaan fir…. As I contemplated writing about it, I came across what I think is a remnant branch from a fir tree along the side of the road… as Ellie rolled in the remaining snow. Not sure the variety, but for sure it came off a tree going home to serve as a Christmas tree from the farm up the road.
An Update... I visited with Anne again on March 1st and her canaan fir was still fresh and in her home, though undressed and ready to be put outside “for the birds to find shelter during the upcoming snowstorm.” That was the eve of the first of two nor’easter storm events that clobbered us in Northeast New Jersey. So kind of Anne to provide a respite spot for the birds. Talk about a Christmas tree that keeps providing extended joy….