DENVER — Many families enjoy displaying a live Christmas tree. Afterward, the tree is planted outside. It's a lovely living memory of a family holiday.
If you'd like to do this, there's one thing you need to do right now: dig a hole. It's impossible to chop through frozen ground to plant your tree in late December. So dig the hole and store the soil in a garage or other frost-free place.
If you buy a living tree now, keep it outside but protected from the wind. Keep it watered. When you bring it inside, decorate it and enjoy it for a few days and then take it back out and plant it. Living trees can only spend a few days inside. The warm air in the house will disrupt its winter dormancy. It will mistake the warmth for spring and start to grow again.
Another holiday preparation that needs to be done now is planting amaryllis bulbs. The exceptionally large and beautiful flowers of amaryllis have become nearly as popular as poinsettias. Native to South America, these plants send up stalks of huge flowers in many colors, ranging from red and burgundy to pink, orange, and white. Many varieties have striped or multi-colored blossoms.
Plant the bulbs in a pot not much bigger than the bulbs themselves with perhaps an inch or two extra all around. Cover about half to two-thirds of the bulb with soil but let the "nose" stick out from the soil. Place the potted bulb in a sunny window and keep it moist but not soggy. The stalks will begin to emerge in a few weeks. It's difficult to time them exactly; some bulbs can be obstinate about blooming. It often depends on how warm your house is. In most cases, however, they should bloom within five to six weeks.
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