How to Pick the Perfect Christmas Tree

Use this guide to help you pick out the perfect tree.
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Photo By: Photo by Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Debbie Wolf

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Photo by Debbie Wolfe

Photo By: Photo by Debbie Wolfe

How to Pick a Perfect Christmas Tree

Millions of Christmas trees are purchased each holiday season, yet the buying decision itself couldn't be more personal. The Christmas tree is the focal point while the rest of the decorations are the supporting cast. It stands for tradition, with each family having their own unique memories and plans for the season ahead. With those thoughts in mind, lets consider the options for buying a great Christmas tree.

Artificial Tree

Artificial, or "permanent" trees offer as many options in style and price as natural trees. The obvious benefit to going with a permanent tree is that the tree lasts for years and will save money in the long run. Some not so obvious benefits include the sturdiness of the branches, the perfection of the shape and the time savings. Some are even suitable for outdoor use. Permanent trees will hold the heaviest ornaments. The wire branch tips can be bent to just the right angle to suit your preference. Best of all, instead of heading out to the tree lot and spending an hour (or several) picking a tree; you just bring it out of storage, fluff it up and plug it in.

Flocked Tree

Flocked trees are natural trees that have been "painted" with all natural (biodegradable) artificial snow. This process effectively glues the needles on the tree and precludes the need for watering. Some sellers place the tree on a stand that can be watered, others do not. Remember, a white tree will require lights with a white cord to blend in.When you buy a flocked tree, it stays on the stand it came on, so all you do is bring it in and decorate it. At the end of the season, it can be disposed of in the same way as a regular cut Christmas tree.

Fresh Cut Tree

Fresh cut trees are by far the most popular because of tradition, fragrance and because Dad needs to use his chainsaw at least once a year. Whether you buy from a farm or a re-seller like a nursery or non-profit tree lot, these trees are planted with harvest in mind. In addition to the lovely fragrance of a cut tree, buying a fresh Christmas tree is a great way to support Christmas tree farmers.

Live Tree

Like the idea of planting a live tree after the holidays? It's possible if you follow a few key steps. First, only keep the tree indoors for two or three days. Water it well before bringing it in to avoid the need to water while it's inside. While inside, keep it away from heat vents. Second, when transitioning the tree from indoors back outdoors, hold it in an unheated room for a day or so to acclimate the tree if the outside conditions are around freezing or below. Finally, if the ground is not frozen, plant it in the ground within a few days; otherwise keep it watered, sheltered from strong winds and insulate its roots from the freeze-thaw cycle until the ground thaws.

Tree Species Characteristics

Each region of the country has its own unique species selection for fresh cut Christmas trees. Look for differences in branching pattern (layered, random, dense, sparse, etc), needle length, scent, color and shape. The species that is right for your neighbor may not be your favorite. You may want to shop early in the season for the best selection and the prettiest trees.

Checking for Freshness

Freshness in a cut tree is extremely important. Here is a good way to check for freshness: hold the tip of a branch firmly with one hand. With the other hand pinch the branch just above where you are holding with the first hand and push up toward the trunk (rubbing the needles "backwards"). A recently cut, well-hydrated tree should lose few, if any needles.

Size of Tree

The tree farm or lot should be graded according to height. As a buyer, you will also need to know the width, so take a measuring tape and avoid the guesswork. (Measure your space before you go) Two things to remember: 1. The tree stand and the topper will take a foot or more of space, so if you have an 8' ceiling you should look for a 7-8' tree. 2. If the tree is too big you can cut it, but you can't make a small tree bigger.

Shape of Tree

Even within a species there can be significant variation in proportions. Your low ceilings may determine that you need a narrow tree. Maybe you need a wide tree to fill an entire bay window. Consider the location and what else is in the room when deciding among round, pencil or pyramidal shaped trees. Looking for a graphic, architectural look? The silvertip fir trees pictured here are a favorite of designers for their dramatic branches and shape.

Fullness of Tree

Fullness of the tree determines a few elements that may be important to you later. A very densely branched, full tree is great for lights and small ornaments. Also, it may hide the trunk and will definitely not allow a view through to the other side. An open branch pattern allows for larger ornaments and also may give a more natural or "wild" look.

Getting the Family to Agree

Decide by consensus. Everyone takes a turn. Draw straws. Knowing who has the final say ahead of time can save a lot of headache and heartache when the time finally comes to choose the tree. With young children, it helps to give them two or three options from which to choose. Otherwise you may walk out with the first tree you see (or the biggest).

Double Check for Defects

The tree may look perfect in its place on the lot, but then its trunk may be huge or have a split or a dog leg. Anything that is (or was) alive has blemishes and that's fine, you'll just want to take a 360 degree survey of your tree to make sure there are no major defects.

Make a Decision

Once the family agrees and there are no deal-breaking blemishes, your decision has been made. Congratulations on choosing your perfect Christmas tree! Just make sure to keep your stand or water basin full of water so your tree stays fresher longer.