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Christmas Tree Shop

Selecting the Perfect Christmas Tree

Michael Fahey, Merrifield Plant Specialist and ISA Certified Arborist

Updated December 2021. This post was originally published in December of 2018.

The holiday season is upon us and it’s time to pick out the family Christmas tree. Other than the annual trip to take the kids to see Santa, there’s perhaps no better tradition than gathering the family together for a trip to the nursery to pick out the perfect tree, and then taking it home to decorate. For many, this is a fun and collaborative effort that results in getting just the right tree for your home. But for others, it can be a challenge to get everyone to agree on the best Christmas tree, especially with so many options to choose from. At Merrifield Garden Center, we carry thousands of high quality Christmas trees, which come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. To help you navigate this forest of fresh-cut Christmas trees, here is a quick guide on some of the different varieties we have to offer so you can choose the perfect one for your home.

Fraser Fir, Christmas Tree

Fraser Fir

Fraser firs are one of the most popular Christmas trees we sell, and for good reason. The soft, sturdy needles are dark green with a silvery underside, and have that traditional Christmas tree aroma. Strong, dense branches are perfect for those of us who like to decorate a tree with a lot of ornaments. These trees have a uniform habit with a nice tapered shape from top to bottom, providing a consistent look to the tree on all sides.

Concolor Fir

Concolor Firs come from the mountains of Pennsylvania, and maintain the strength for holding ornaments of the Fraser Fir but with longer needles and a softer feel and appearance. They have a fuller and more rounded shape than the Fraser Fir, with silvery blue tinted needles.

Turkish Fir, Christmas Tree

Turkish Fir

My personal favorite, Turkish firs have a great look and feel to them. The needles are succulent and juicy with a nice, citrus-like fragrance. The top sides of the needles have a darker green color while the undersides have a silvery sheen, which creates and a nice bi-color appearance. Turkish firs have a very open, almost perfectly lateral branching habit, which gives them a nice layered appearance. This branching structure makes them perfect for holding larger ornaments.

Noble Fir, Christmas Tree

Noble Fir

Noble firs have many of the same qualities as the Turkish firs. However, their subtle fragrance is more in line with the traditional Christmas tree aroma.  While the needles at the ends of the branches of the Turkish firs are slightly weeping, the needles on the Noble fir curl up on the ends of the branches.

Douglas Fir, Christmas Tree

Douglas Fir

Douglas firs have softer needles and a lighter green color than their fir cousins. Their fragrance is more of a piney aroma. Douglas firs are sheared by the grower and therefore have a nice, consistent, pyramidal shape that many people enjoy.

Blue Spruce, Christmas Tree

Blue Spruce

Blue spruce have hard needles with a slight fragrance and a rigid branching habit, which allows them to hold heavy ornaments better than other trees. As their name implies, the needles have a blue cast. The combination of the tan hues of the stems with the vegetative buds at the ends of all the branches create an interesting contrast that many people enjoy

White Pine, Christmas Tree

White Pine

White pines have long, soft needles that are very fine, with a light green color. These trees have a less fragrant aroma than others. White pines are a great choice for people who enjoy a softer looking and feeling Christmas tree. They are a good choice for lighter ornaments, but do not hold heavier ones very well.

Glitter Pumpkin Thanksgiving Decor

Thanksgiving Centerpiece Inspiration

Thanksgiving is almost here and the holiday season is getting into full swing! For many of us, this means welcoming family and friends into our homes for lunches, dinners and festive gatherings. Whether or not you host at your home, this is a fun time to get creative with fall décor. The best part about decorating for the holidays is that the sky is the limit. Using creativity and a combination of found, repurposed, or purchased supplies, anyone can make a beautiful piece for their home. We’ve put together just a few examples for you to get your creativity flowing before Thanksgiving arrives.

Thanksgiving Harvest Tablescape

Candlelit Harvest Display

In this piece, we combine large pillar candles with an array of natural items you can purchase and collect from outdoors. Pumpkins, gourds, wheat stalks, branches, pine cones and autumn leaves are just a few. Add a little polish by lightly spraying or brushing gold paint on the pine cones or leaves and tying ribbons or raffia around the candles.

Cornucopia Centerpiece

Cornucopia with Fresh Greenery

A lush centerpiece featuring the traditional cornucopia makes a classic addition to any Thanksgiving table. Purchase or cut fresh ferns and flowers from your own garden to pair with gourds and pumpkins. Add candles and berries for a finishing touch.

Modern Gray Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Modern Fall Table in Green, Gray and White

Combine greenery (fresh or artificial) with shades of gray and silver for a more modern take on a fall display. Fresh pumpkins can be painted and sealed any color you want – this arrangement would also look lovely with gold or white. Add some pine cones and berries for extra interest, and your centerpiece is complete.

Metallic Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Metallic Gold and Silver

If you love metallics, this is the centerpiece for you! Spray and seal your pumpkins, gourds, pinecones or fall leaves and arrange with candles or other items to suit your tastes. If you are looking for more holiday decorating ideas, you are welcome to visit us at any of our stores and speak with our design specialists – we are happy to help!

Herb Garden

Gardening Gifts for Dad

This Father’s Day, share the gift of gardening with your father by taking on a new project together, or by enjoying time outdoors. We have just the plants and supplies you need to make the day great whether your father is a master gardener, a novice or just someone who enjoys a plant or two in his home. Read on for suggestions and inspiration to get Dad the perfect gift this year.

For the Indoor-Only Gardener: Bonsai Tree

Bonsai

Bonsai trees make a unique gift for dads who may not garden very much, but enjoy having something growing in their home.  With a wide variety of bonsai to choose from, you are sure to find one your father will love.

For the Landscaping Pro: Black Diamond Crape Myrtle

Black Diamond Crape Myrtle

Crape Myrtles are a favorite for their summer blooms, and the Black Diamond series is one of our newest and most popular varieties. Unlike other crape myrtle trees, the foliage on these is black. This series features blooms in a variety of colors, but we particularly love the red.

For the Chef: Fresh Herbs

Herb Garden

Fresh herbs are the perfect gift for any home chef, as they can be grown quickly and harvested as needed for cooking from a container or windowsill garden. Create a small herb garden with Dad this Father’s day with rosemary, oregano, chives or other easy to grow herbs.

For the Gardener Who Has Everything: Handy Gadgets and Accessories

Garden Shovel, Garden Tool

If dad is a master gardener and already seems to have everything, why not get him something extra to make his work easier? Popular gardening accessories and tools include kneeler pads, long arm hose extenders, soaker hoses, sun hats and gardening gloves.

Pro Tip: Our own Merrifield dads are more than happy to provide ideas. For example, Michael Fahey, one of our instructors and arborists, recommends the King of Spades Shovel as, “the one gardening tool you can’t live without.” If you are looking for more ideas, our team would be happy to talk with you about their own favorite tools and plants!

We hope you have a great Father’s Day! Have fun planting!

Planting Seedlings for Arbor Day

Update to our seedling giveaway event:

Thank you for your participation in our 2018 Arbor Day seedling giveaway! The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. We encourage you to send us photos of your planting projects at photos@mgcmail.com!

As a garden center, Arbor Day is one of our favorite holidays. Each year we celebrate by encouraging our friends, family and customers to cultivate and care for our environment by planting trees in their gardens.

This year, we are excited to take this celebration a step further by actually giving away native white dogwood seedlings for families to plant! Take on a planting project with your children, your family, or your friends this year to celebrate the environment and add a beautiful new plant to your home and garden. As the white dogwood seedlings grow, they will improve the air quality of our region, create habitats for local wildlife, and serve as a food source for birds, pollinators and other animals.

How to Plant a Seedling

Seedlings can be planted in the ground or in a container. It is best to plant them within 24 hours of bringing it home, but if you cannot do so, keep the roots of your tree moist. Wrap your seedling in plastic and store it in a cool, dark spot between 40 degrees and 60 degrees, then plant your seedling as soon as possible.

Container Planting

Supplies:

  • Container (At least 1 gallon in size and 6-7 inches deep)
  • Water soluble or slow release fertilizer
  • Merrifield Potting Mix

Steps:

  1. Select a container with a drainage hole that is slightly larger than the root system in depth and width (a one-gallon pot that is 6-7 in. deep is generally enough to maintain the growth of the seedling for one year)
  2. Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
  3. Top soil and garden soil are generally too heavy for seedlings. Use Merrifield Potting Mix to get your seedling off to a strong start.
  4. Place the seedling in the container, and fill with Merrifield Potting Mix to the top of the point where the roots begin.
  5. If your potting mix does not contain a slow release fertilizer, apply a slow release fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants. Re-apply once per month.
  6. Water your container thoroughly. Test the soil for moisture regularly and water as needed when the soil is dry.
  7. You can keep your tree in a one-gallon container in a spot with full sun to part shade for approximately one year before transferring it to the ground.

Planting in the ground

Supplies:

  • Shovel
  • Bucket or bowl
  • Mulch
  • Garden hose
  • Watering Wand
  • Merrifield Planting Mix

Steps:

  1. Select a location for your tree. Ideally, it should be sheltered from weather, wildlife and lawn mowers for the first few years, then transplanted to another location. If you will be planting it in the spot you intend to be its permanent location, place a fence around the tree to protect it from lawn mowers and foraging wildlife.
  2. Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
  3. Dig a hole as deep as the depth of the roots for your seedling, allowing plenty of room around it for the roots to grow and spread out.
  4. Place your seedling in the hole, making sure that the top of the roots is at the level of the soil line.
  5. Mix your existing soil with Merrifield Planting Mix or other soil conditioner and use this mixture to backfill the hole.
  6. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants once per month.
  7. Water thoroughly and deeply with your watering wand, saturating the root zone. Water deeply whenever the soil is dry to encourage deep roots.
  8. After planting, mulch 2-3 inches deep around the seedling to retain soil temperature and moisture. Leave unmulched soil around the trunk.

Celebrating Arbor Day

Looking to celebrate Arbor Day with a planting project, but prefer to plant a tree larger than a seedling?

Visit our post on trees and shrubs that grow well in our region.

Bleeding Heart, Perennial

Blooming Gifts for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and beautiful spring blooms are the perfect gifts to show her you appreciate her hard work and care for the family! If you need some inspiration or fresh ideas for a gift, check out our list of vibrant, colorful flowers and arrangements that your mom will love.

Calibrachoa Spring Hanging Basket

Hanging Baskets

A display-ready addition to any patio, hanging baskets come in a multitude of colors and varieties that grow well in both sun and shade. Our plant specialists are happy to create a basket for you, or you can select one of our ready-made containers of vibrant seasonal blooms from our annuals department.

Dianthus

Dianthus

This cheerful perennial with its bright colors and delicate blooms is a favorite of many gardeners. This bright flower is wonderful in containers and attracts butterflies.

Bleeding Heart, Perennial

Bleeding Heart

This unique flower bears striking, heart-shaped blooms on long stems which grow beautifully in part to full shade. Moms will love this delicate flower, which has been a garden favorite for many years.

Container Gardens

These beautiful pieces can be custom designed to suit your mom’s taste and style. We are happy to put them together with a container from our store, or with one you already have at home! You can select one already made at our store, or work with us (or your family!) to create one mom will love.

Check out our step-by-step blog to create a container garden of your own.

Lavender

The soothing scent of lavender makes this an excellent choice to pamper mom with aromatherapy.  This is a wonderful gift for moms who enjoy cooking or for those who just enjoy the fragrance.

Peony

This popular plant compliments all styles of gardens. These stunning flowers feature dramatic blooms in a variety of colors ranging from white, to pink, to red. We consider this plant a “must have” for it’s stunning blooms and classic appeal.

Traditional Favorites

Still aren’t sure what to get mom? Some of our most popular and traditional gifts include azaleas and rhododendron, roses, and hydrangea. There are many beautiful plants to choose from – if you need advice, just let us know!

Christmas Collections for Every Home

The holidays are a special time at Merrifield Garden Center. From the moment you walk in the door, you’re immersed in the charming sights, scents and spirit of the season.

One of my favorite parts about Christmas at Merrifield is designing the shop, which showcases our hand-selected decorations for customers to enjoy. This year, we’ve created twenty unique themes throughout the store, each with its own style featuring different types of décor. Whether you visit our Fair Oaks location or one of our other stores, I hope you enjoy the themes our teams have put together this year!

I love all of this year’s themes, but I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites to give you a “sneak peek” of this year’s Christmas Shop. I would encourage you to visit the store to experience the magic of our Christmas Shop in person!

Pageant in the Woods

Our “Pageant in the Woods” theme features adorable animals and woodland themed decorations which appear to have wondered in off a forest path or jumped out of the pages of a story book. At our Fair Oaks store, we’ve designed two trees in this theme.

The “Woodland Tree” features textured bristle animals reminiscent of the creatures you might encounter on a quiet winter walk. These delightful critters look perfectly at home on a Christmas tree or in a woodland themed holiday display gracing a table or shelf.

Christmas Tree, Holiday Decor

Woodland Tree

The “Woodland Tree” features textured bristle animals reminiscent of the creatures you might encounter on a quiet winter walk. These delightful critters look perfectly at home on a Christmas tree or in a woodland themed holiday display gracing a table or shelf.

Christmas Tree, Holiday Decor

Felt Tree

Whimsical felt ornaments with a soft, wooly texture adorn our “Felt Tree”. This collection of lovable characters is sure to put a smile on your face, evoking some of our favorite classic children’s stories featuring dapper mice, sly foxes and other characters.

Christmas Tree, Holiday Decor

O Tannenbaum

Die-cut wood ornaments and décor with an Old World European style make up our “O Tannenbaum” collection. If you love charming details and the feeling of being in a cozy chalet, this theme is perfect for you!

Some of our featured décor from this collection are made just down the road in central Virginia! Our Inge-glas German glass, KWO German smokers, and the TRC Ginger Cottage collection are worth checking out.

Christmas Tree, Holiday Decor

Blooming Easter Gifts

Nothing says happy Easter more than a bright, blooming plant! Here are our picks for bright blooms to treat your loved one this Easter:

Geranium

We love geraniums for their showy clusters of blooms in bright shades of red, pink, rose, orange, white and purple. These annuals perform well in hanging baskets, containers and bed borders in full sun to part shade conditions. Geraniums perform best when planted in rich, well-drained soil. We recommend removing the spent blooms and fertilizing regularly to encourage continued flowering. When watering, allow the soil to dry out between sessions.

Hydrangea

Beloved for their clusters of delicate, paper-like flowers, hydrangeas come in a variety of shades, including white, pink, blue and purple. Keep your hydrangea looking its best by placing it in bright, indirect light while indoors. Once the risk of frost has passed, you can transplant it directly into the garden in a part sun location. Keep your hydrangea well-watered to prevent the blooms from wilting.

Begonia

We love begonias for their ability to provide constant color throughout the season in a variety of light levels, ranging from full sun to shade. Begonias produce lush, large blooms in shades of pink, white, orange, yellow, salmon and red. Plant begonias in moist, well-drained soil where they’ll receive afternoon shade from the hot summer sun, and fertilize regularly.

Gerbera Daisy

With velvety smooth petals surrounding a center eye, gerbera daisies look nearly perfect. Gerbera daisies produce large blooms that stand on leafless stems above foliage in many vivid colors. These happy blooms make a great addition to containers and garden beds and can last for a week or more when incorporated into a fresh-cut arrangement. Place gerbera daisies in full sun to part shade with moist, well-drained soil, remove spent blooms by snipping at the base of the stem and fertilize regularly. 

Petunia

An ever-popular spring annual, petunias are vigorous growers and prolific bloomers. We love  these blooms in, hanging baskets, window boxes and garden beds as they come in many color choices with beautiful veining. Plant petunias in full sun to part shade with well-drained soil, remove the spent blooms and fertilize regularly to encourage continued flowering.

Easter lily

A traditional favorite, the Easter lily produces large, fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. They can be enjoyed throughout the holiday indoors and transplanted to the garden once the risk of frost has passed. Place the lily in bright, indirect light and away from direct sunlight or heat. Keep in mind that an Easter lily is not a good gift for those with cats as they are toxic. Be sure to remove the foil on your Easter lily when watering to allow the water to drain through the pot.

10 Things to do to Wrap Up and Prepare for the Holidays

Mary Kirk Menefee, Merrifield Landscape Designer

If you are anything like me, January 2 comes with a strong desire to hit refresh. By the weekend after New Year’s, my refrigerator is stocked with leafy greens, lean proteins and citrus fruits, and I am ready to launch into a round of committed cooking. But wait! There is a drooping tree still in the living room, a putrid amaryllis on the table next to a spent Frasier Fir candle, and the remains of Christmas projects lurking in corners and under chairs. Before I can truly start the new year, I need to put the old one away.

Here is the usual routine:

  • Retrieve the storage boxes from wherever they were shoved when all of the decorations came out.
  • Carefully remove ornaments from the tree, wrap in tissue and place at random in the storage box.
  • Maneuver the tree out to the dumpster cursing the dry dropping needles all the way.
  • Place other decorations in storage boxes with no consideration for their condition. My decreasing fondness for the general accumulation of items or any organizing principle other than how fast can I make these things fit into boxes.
  • Shove all boxes, wrapping supplies, etc., into as compact a group as possible and place on a high shelf to be retrieved 11 long months from now.
  • Vacuum, change bag, vacuum again, curse needles and glitter, vacuum again.
  • Take a deep breath and revel in the calm feeling that accompanies a good de-Christmassing. It is the perfect counter-balance to the pride and excitement of having decorated the house exquisitely six weeks ago.
  • Get on with the cooking and maybe a good playoff game.

Now, I don’t think this is a terrible performance. There are those people who can’t manage to get the tree down before Valentine’s Day, and I can congratulate myself on promptness. But in 11 not-so-long months, I’ll be kicking myself as the disorganized mess parades itself out of the storage boxes.

I’ll buy a fresh set of gift boxes, only to realize I have plenty up on that high shelf, but I’ll fail to buy whatever thing stopped working this year before all of the stores are out of it. I won’t have ornament hooks on the day we decorate the tree. I’ll run out of Scotch tape half way through wrapping the presents. I’ll once again miss the post office’s deadline for mailing packages and have to sweat out whether gifts will reach their destinations in time. I won’t let these missteps sap my holiday joy, but I’ll know I could have done better. This year, I want to do better – not for eager New Year’s Resolution Me – for Future Holiday Me who will have worked hard all year and will deserve an organized, well-curated start to her festive season.

Here are 10 ideas to put last year’s holidays to bed and give yourself a fantastic start to next year’s holiday season:

  1. Curate your collection

Take a hard look at all of your decorations, dishes, candles, etc. What has gotten shabby or dated? What has been replaced by a better one? Make a point to throw out or donate anything that is no longer a valued member of the collection.

  1. Repair or toss broken/damaged decorations

Assess whether any given repair is worth your time and money. In other words, are you ever, really, going to figure out why that strand of lights keeps blowing a fuse? Everything in the not-worth-it and beyond-repair categories should go directly in the trash. Save your time and effort for gluing the sequins back on the Popsicle stick ornament your child made in kindergarten.

  1. Organize your Christmas tree ornaments

Take time to lay out all of the ornaments and separate them into categories. Put the “filler” ornaments in the bottom of the storage box. Put anything hard to attach or that goes deep in the tree near the top of the box. Next time you decorate, you’ll be able to pull it out and put it on early, when the task is easiest. Put all of the most special ornaments on the very top so that the joy of seeing them kicks off the tree-trimming. You’ll also ensure that they get the best spots!

  1. Make of list of needs for next year

Note anything you ran out of, were missing, needed to be thrown out, etc. Put your list on the very top of the first storage box you usually open. Better yet, attach your list to your November calendar so you run into it before you even get started.

  1. Visit after-Christmas sales and then revise your list

Take advantage of January’s deep discounts on holiday items at sales like Merrifield’s annual After-Christmas Sale.  You can reduce the size of your list from #4, leaving less to do next November and December.

  1. Make note of important dates and deadlines

Review your holiday timeline and list in order the milestones that you must hit to make your season run smoothly. Does your farmer need your heritage turkey order by August? Does your favorite restaurant start taking New Year’s Eve reservations on November 1? What are the various shipping deadlines for the post office and your favorite online retailer? For bonus points, put all of these dates in your calendar now!

  1. Make notes of things that worked and didn’t

One last list! Review and write down your advice to yourself for next season. i.e., No one ate the pistachio candies for the second year in a row—consider making something else instead. All the kids are getting older and more responsible—move Christmas dinner a couple of hours earlier. The tree lasted much longer this year—make sure it gets water within 30 minutes of a fresh cut. Put all of the lists (#4, #6, #7) together, again, in a place where you will find it at the very start of the season.

  1. Make this the year to migrate your contacts to your computer

Streamline your old address book, the one where all of the blanks are filled in with outdated addresses and sticky notes scribbled with all of the updated addresses. I did this four years ago when we were planning our wedding, and while I shed a nostalgic tear or two over the old hand-written book, everything easier on Excel. There are a number of apps that can take you even farther into the 21st century, just find something that works for you.

  1. Brush up on care for perennial holiday plants

Clip the faded flowers off the amaryllis. If you are planning to keep plants such as Christmas cactus, review what you’ll need to do to bring back that beautiful holiday display at the right time.

  1. Keep your home’s exterior looking sharp

Take down the lights and the red glitter, but don’t leave your home bare between now and daffodil time. Many wreaths and decorations can be converted from a holiday to a winter theme with simple changes. Outdoor containers can be refreshed with plain cut greens until pansies hit the shelves in late February. For bare spots in the garden, check out winter bloomers, such as helleborus, camellia and witch hazel.