I Swore I’d Never Get an Artificial Christmas Tree Until I Found Balsam Hill

Wondering if Balsam Hill Christmas trees are really as good as people say? Follow along as I offer a detailed review of my first experience with an artificial Christmas tree to see if you should make the switch just in time for their incredible Christmas clearance sale.

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Updated on December 05, 2023

I’ve always been the person who scoffed at the idea of an artificial tree. I cheered on Charlie Brown when he opted for the flimsy, tiny real Christmas tree over the flashy aluminum trees that everyone else seemed to be going for. One of my all-time favorite Christmas pastimes is picking out my real, fluffy evergreen the second Thanksgiving celebrations end. The look, the smell, the nostalgia — nothing beats it. But in recent years, something changed.

My wonky little Christmas tree, sporting its best side. Keep in mind that I live in a very small home with ceilings just under 7 feet, so this tree is actually smaller than it appears.

My wonky little Christmas tree, sporting its best side. Keep in mind that I live in a very small home with ceilings just under 7 feet, so this tree is actually smaller than it appears.

I would find myself going lot to lot looking for a reasonably priced tree to bring back home, but after only finding sparse, tiny trees for exorbitant prices, I couldn't bring myself to do it again.

Out of frustration, I started researching artificial trees. And wow, have they come a long way since the stiff, branch-by-branch assembly trees of my childhood. Not only has the assembly become undoubtedly easier, but there are actually brands that seem to have accomplished the impossible: making the tree look real.

After a few days of research, I stumbled upon a photo of a coworker’s tree that I was genuinely unsure about whether it was real or artificial. The branches looked so real, but it was so much more beautiful than any real trees I had seen this year, so I finally had to ask. It was a Balsam Hill Fraser Fir, and I knew right then I had to try one for myself. After reading every page I could find on their site and comparing each variety of tree to determine which one I should get, this is what I learned.

What to Know About Balsam Hill Trees

Balsam Hill started in 2006 when its founder, Mac Harman, sought to create the perfect artificial tree for a family member who was allergic to live trees but still wanted to experience the Christmas magic of a decorated tree. Since Mac couldn’t find a tree on the market that didn’t look fake, he decided to take matters into his own hands and design an artificial tree that would put all others to shame.

How did he do this, exactly? Mac and his team of designers actually used cuttings from real trees to create their exclusive True Needle™ varieties. Their lifelike True Needle™ collection is comprised of over 50 trees, each one crafted with foliage that was designed based on casts of real tree branches.

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Asymmetrical branches, subtle variation in branch tips and color, and extreme attention to detail are what set these trees apart. The company categorizes its trees as “Most Realistic,” “Realistic” and “Traditional,” offering several tree varieties in each category, making it easier to select a tree based on your personal preference and budget. I chose to look within the “Most Realistic” category because I knew that if I was going to be happy with an artificial tree, not only would it need to last enough years to make the price of switching to artificial worth it, but it would also need to look like the real thing.

How to Choose a Balsam Hill Tree

Order a Branch Sample Kit: Balsam Hill Trees come in 25 different styles. No matter which category you choose, my main recommendation is to order a branch sample kit. When I received mine, I was shocked by the quality of the samples alone, and I found that of the trees I was deciding between, seeing and feeling the branches in person made the decision instantly clear. Plus, the cost of the kit is credited toward your tree purchase. Simply apply the credit code in your order confirmation to your tree purchase.

Pick Your Height: You can order trees anywhere from less than 6 feet to up to 30 feet to fit your home. We recommend choosing a size that leave a bit of headroom to fit a tree topper comfortably.

Pick Your Lights: Finally, you'll need to decide if you want a pre-lit, unlit, color-changing or app-controlled lights for your tree. The lighting does make a difference in the pricing, but a pre-lit option can be much less of a headache for most people.

I chose the classic Fraser fir which is also the type of tree I always buy each Christmas. And since I have already bought a real tree this season, I was even able to hold the branch sample to my existing tree for a true comparison. I was amazed that I could hardly even notice it there and even sent a photo to friends to see if they could spot the difference. They couldn’t! If I was on the fence before, this was enough to convince me this tree would be worth the price.

Setting Up a Balsam Hill Christmas Tree

My exact order was the 6.5’ BH Fraser Fir® Flip Tree® with color and clear LED lights. Other light options include candlelight clear LED and the very popular twinkly light show. The tree and lights are backed by a three-year warranty that includes repairing or replacing the lights on prelit trees, and as I’ve never had an artificial tree, let alone one that comes with its own lights, the warranty was a relief to me. Plus, I reasoned that long after the warranty expires, I can always add my own lights if needed.

The flip aspect of their patented Flip Tree® is designed to make setup incredibly easy, and it was. The order arrived in two sturdy canvas bags. One held the base of the tree which is already attached to the heavy-duty rolling metal stand and utilizes the flip design. The second bag included the top section. There was also a small bag included that holds extra bulbs and two sizes of protective gloves for shaping the tree.

To set it up, I simply rolled the base where I wanted it to be, locked the wheels in place and flipped the tree portion over. It took less than a minute. From there, I inserted the top section, plugged in the lights and voila. It was already set up. Once I saw the tree assembled, I worried it wouldn’t look as realistic as I’d hoped. It seemed extremely sparse, and I couldn’t imagine it would ever look as real and full as it did online. Thankfully, I was way off. The first setup requires some pretty extreme shaping. Since I haven’t done this with other trees, I can’t say whether it took longer than your average artificial tree, but I can say it made all the difference, and the included gloves are a nice touch.

Near the trunk of the tree are more moldable, less realistic branches that help to disguise the trunk and make the inner tree appear fuller. The other branches are less maneuverable but still pliable enough to zhuzh to your desired look. Once the tree fluffing was over, I took a step back to examine my work. With the artificial tree on my left and the real tree on my right, I couldn’t believe how authentic the Balsam Hill tree really looked. Even with the real tree right beside it for comparison, I could hardly tell the difference, aside from the fact that the Balsam Hill tree looked much better. And once my real tree was relocated to another room, I truly couldn’t tell the faux tree was artificial. I’m eager to host guests just to see if they can spot that I finally opted for artificial.

I had fun playing with the different lighting options and love that I have the ability to switch it up anytime I want, but I’m a clear lights gal at heart and settled on that for this year. The only downside I have found with the prelit tree is that in order to use my existing light-up angel, I had to attach a secondary string of lights to hook it to. Ultimately, I don’t think that devalues the tree, though it would be nice to have the option to plug the topper directly into the tree.

A Few Things to Consider Before Ordering Your Balsam Hill Tree

Assembly Is Required: The box the tree arrived in was fairly heavy, so some people would need another person to assist just to get the box inside. Additionally, the tree sections may be too heavy for some people, and while I didn’t have any trouble setting the tree up on my own, I do think some people may find it too awkward or heavy to handle without an extra set of hands.

Fluffing Takes Some Work: As I mentioned before, the tree does require a good amount of fluffing. I asked around and deduced this is likely typical for artificial trees. I also found that Balsam Hill actually says the tree will require less fluffing after its initial setup, so I look forward to saving a little time in years to come.

Who Should Try Balsam Hill? Anyone In the Market for a Realistic Artificial Tree!

Ultimately, I love this tree, and since I plan to use it year after year, I know that the cost will be worth it to me. I’m already enjoying not having to worry about watering the tree or constantly sweeping up needles. And while I normally have to dispose of my crunchy Christmas tree shortly after the 25th, I plan to leave this one up well beyond Christmas to add a little joy to my cold, dreary January.

So, if you also feel you're ready to make the switch to an artificial Christmas tree, or if you simply want to upgrade your existing artificial tree, I feel confident in saying the Balsam Hill tree really does live up to its name. And with a sale like this one, there's no better time to get all your must-haves for a picture-perfect Christmas, whether this year or next!

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