In January 2016 I mark ten years of writing Outside the Backdoor, a column that originated as a gap filler in my church magazine. To celebrate, I’ve decided to translate the idea online and to start blogging.
As our Christmas tree celebrates either its 4th or 5th year outside the backdoor, I thought it was about time it had its own blog post!
Before I go any further, I guess I should explain why our Christmas tree is a permanent feature outside the backdoor. It’s very simple really, an outdoor tree is less prone to being climbed by cats … or nibbled by cats … or knocked over by cats … you get the picture! And we have three of them, so seven years’ ago when we faced our first Christmas with a pair of lively kittens, we decided that a potted tree left outside would be safer and less stressful. We have a perfectly good view of it out on the patio from both the dining room and lounge windows and, at night, the lights and decorations all twinkle beautifully, especially if there is a little breeze (ideally not a gale!) Amazingly the really cheap silver decorations we bought all those years ago are still going strong. Now the cats are older we have considered whether we should return to having a more conventional indoor tree but as Bryggen still likes to try to climb our ten foot indoor yucca plant and Roly will nibble any leaf in sight (although his favourite is bean leaves), we have concluded that we are safer sticking with the outdoor option.
Our first outdoor tree lasted two Christmasses but the current one is about to notch up its fourth. It began life as quite a small specimen but, during 2014 the tree grew and grew. Each branch developed a bright, lime green extension as each tip developed vibrant new needles. The central trunk also stretched itself as if it knew it wanted to be taller. Last Christmas there was much more ‘spike’ to tie a star to. (Note: we don’t do fairies on our tree!) 2015, however, was more challenging. It wasn’t a particularly warm summer but we did have a long dry spell in the Spring and at times it can be very difficult to tell if the tree needs water. In the Spring the days were still relatively cool so little moisture was being lost that way but it was often breezy and, although we always stick a finger into the compost before applying water, it can still be quite difficult to tell what’s required. By now the compost is almost certainly lacking in nutrients so we’ve top dressed it and also fed it occasionally with liquid ericaceous feed. I suspect we don’t feed it enough, given its size, but I’m equally concerned that I’ll over feed it and end up killing it that way. However, we must be doing something right as 2016 saw it have another growth spurt with more bright green spikes and this year we have a tree that is broadly green but, don’t look too closely, as in its depths there are plenty of brown needles.
And if you’re in any doubt as to whether cats and Christmas trees mix, do go and view one of my favourite cartoons – Simon’s Cat “Santa Claws” – enjoy!