Our mild Pacific Northwest climate allows us to garden straight through the winter months, if we are tenacious enough to brave the wind and rain. What to do if you're a fair-weather...

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Forum activity blossoms in winter

Our mild Pacific Northwest climate allows us to garden straight through the winter months, if we are tenacious enough to brave the wind and rain.

What to do if you’re a fair-weather gardener? You could take up knitting or baking, or you could go online and commune with fellow gardeners around the world. Here are some of the more active gardening forums:

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groups-beta.google.com/group/rec.gardens — These historic forums were known as “Usenet” in the early days of the Internet. Registration required; very active but not moderated; users can create private groups (for your garden club, for example); other topics include edible gardens and rose gardening.

www.yougrowgirl.com/forums/ — Registration is required; about 25 topics.

www.thegardenhelper.com Click “The Gardener’s Forum”; registration required; 25 topics.

forums.gardenweb.com/forums/ — Registration required; at least 100 topics.

davesgarden.com/forums/ Membership required ($15/year); many topics.

Tannenbaum tidbits, care tips

The practice of bringing live evergreens into the house has history on its side. It is far older than the celebration of Christmas, perhaps dating back 5,000 years.

The Christmas Tree Association reports that Egyptians brought palm branches indoors on the shortest day of the year to symbolize the triumph of life over death. Romans adorned homes with evergreens for Saturnalia, a winter festival dedicated to the god of agriculture.

Early evidence of Christmas trees per se is found about 500 years ago in a Germanic region of Europe that is now a part of France.

Hessian mercenaries brought the practice to this country from Europe around the time of the Revolutionary War, but it was not until the mid-1840s that decorating a live evergreen for Christmas became widely popular.

Common varieties of trees and their characteristics include:

Douglas fir:

expensive but full, tall and easy to handle.

White fir:

blue color, soft feel, great citrusy fragrance.

Frazier fir:

soft to the touch, easy to handle, open branching that allows space for ornaments and lights from the tip of a branch to the trunk.

Scotch pine:

shears into shape easily but may have crooked trunks and awkward lower limbs that grow up through the tree.

White pine:

wide-spreading, lacy look, soft to the touch.

Blue spruce:

fragrant, blue color, classic shape, but needles are extremely sharp.

To prevent your tree from drying out or breaking dormancy, keep it indoors only for three or four days, making sure the root ball is constantly moist.

After Christmas, move the tree to an unheated garage or heeled into a protected location outdoors by mulching the root ball with a 6- or 7-inch layer of leaves, wood chips or bark. Give the tree one to two weeks to acclimate to colder temperatures, again keeping the root ball moist.

The tree can be planted anytime after the brief holding period.

It is fine if the underlying soil in the hole is moist, but the surrounding area and soil used to backfill the hole should not be soggy or frozen.

Compiled by Seattle Times news services and Tracy Mehlin of the Miller Library, Center for Urban Horticulture.