Do you have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree complex? When looking for the family Christmas tree each year this is my struggle. I lean towards selecting the sad, wilting tree because otherwise that tree won't have a home for Christmas. Then I have to stop. Pause. Think. And come to my senses. The tree is not a kitten. It does not have feelings and I'm not doing myself a favor by hauling home the worst one on the lot. Besides, live Christmas tree prices are typically $50 and up. In many cases you pay by the foot so I might as well get the best tree for my dollars. But what do you look for? What should you look for when picking out the perfect tree? These are my top tips so that your tree doesn't sap your holiday cheer.
1.) Before you go tree shopping, measure the height of the ceiling in the room where you will display your tree. It's easier if you choose a tree that is about a foot shorter than the ceiling. This way, the tree won't hit the ceiling and should accommodate the base and tree topper. Measure that base too. And don't forget to bring your tape measure when tree shopping!
2.) Select a shapely tree that fits the space where you need it. Some people prefer short fat trees, others long, skinny trees, still others prefer the "perfect" cone shaped tree. Most people prefer fat trees or "perfectly" shaped trees. Retailers know this, so they will charge more for these trees. Make sure you know what you want and what you are willing to pay. Some tree farms charge $10 or more per foot. So it's important to bring that tape measure if you're trying to stay within budget and under the ceiling.
3.) Examine that tree from all angles. Are there any major gaps missing? Is the retailer trying to hide the "backside" of the tree because it's sparse or dead? How are the branches? Are they thick and sturdy or wimpy and saggy? Many ornaments along with your Christmas lights are hefty, you'll want those branches to be able to carry the full weight of all your decor without drooping to the floor.
4.) Chopping down your own tree is better than buying a pre-cut tree. Who knows when those trees were cut? August maybe? Could be. Especially if they were bought up from down South. Take a branch and run your hand across it to see if many of needles fall off. If they do, run. When trees are cut and shipped, they undergo a lot of stress. Sure, losing some needles is normal. But if the tree is fresh, the needles should be pliable and very few fall off. And ask the retailer to shake down your tree before leaving to remove any extra loose needles. You don't want to vacuum any more than you have too!
5.) A bent branch should should snap right back in place. For Frasier and Douglas firs, a better way to test freshness is to remove a firmly connected needle and bend it in half. The needle from a fresh tree should snap. A needle that does not snap indicates that the tree has been cut for some time.
6.) Does the tree feel light for its size? If so, it might be dried out from lack of water. Weight is a great way to measure freshness. Sap is another fantastic way to test for freshness. After the tree is cut, it no longer produces sap. It will continue to use this sap until little remains. So if the tree is still giving sap the parts should be sticky with it. This indicates a healthier tree.
7.) The following five Christmas-tree varieties have the best shape, lush branches, rich color and superior needle retention: balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, noble fir and Scotch pine. Still, if you see any brown spots or dead spots, keep looking! Think about what color tree you prefer and needle length. Do you like long needle or short needle? Do you enjoy a fragrant tree?
8.) Don't buy a tree until you're ready to put it up. Even with a fresh tree, the shelf life is only about 4-6 weeks so don't put up your tree too early. That tree needs water and lots of it immediately! For the first 3 or 4 days, you'll be watering it several times a day. If you can't put it up immediately, you'll need to put the tree in a bucket of warm water outside away from the wind and cold.
9.) Think about room placement before bringing the tree in the house. Where are your outlets? Heat sources. Cats. Dogs. You know how cats are, they bat at the ornaments. They can also get tangled in the lights when they gnaw on them. In fact, our cat nearly toppled our tree one year. Try your best to keep the pets away from the tree for their sake and yours! Shake the branches one more time before bringing the tree inside to get excess needless off.
10.) Place the tree in your home or apartment away from hot, dry heat. Next to the radiator or heat vent is a bad spot. And the tree should never be put up in a room with a stove. Unless you're looking to turn it into kindling. Keep the tree out of harsh sunlight and warm drafts from vents. This will discolor your tree and shorten its lifespan.
11.) The base of the tree needs to be cut immediately before putting up the tree to increase its ability to take up water. Make sure before you purchase that the base of the tree is straight and at least six inches long, so it will fit easily into the tree stand. Make a fresh cut in the trunk of at least 1" before installing the tree in the stand.
12.) The bigger the tree, the wider the base needs to be, and make sure that base can hold a lot of water. If your tree is large like ours, then you might want to mount it to a piece of 4x4 plywood to help distribute the weight. Whatever stand you use, make sure it holds at least one gallon of water. And don't add anything to the water. You probably have heard all the wives tales of adding aspirin, soda water, bleach, salt, sugar, or Karo syrup to keep the tree fresher longer. But most experts insist just plain H2O is best.
13.) The first time you water the tree, use hot water. Once the sap starts to seal over the pores of the tree, it will stop drawing water. This is why it's so important to get the tree into water as soon as possible after the fresh cut. Besides, water prevents the needles from drying and dropping off and maintains the fragrance. Some trees may require several quarts a day, so check the water levels in the stand every few hours.
One final very helpful tip...
Each year Tom lays a plastic tarp under our homemade wooden Christmas tree stand to catch needles and other debris falling from the tree. It sure prevents needles getting spread all over the carpet. Then I quickly use the vacuum to suction all these needles before they get stuck in our socks. Ouch. Another bonus is when I do overfill the tree with water, it flows onto the waterproof tarp, not our carpet.
Do you put up multiple Christmas trees? Real or fake?
Hi, I'm Laura and hail from Buffalo, NY. I love sharing my home & garden ideas with you. Thanks for stopping by.
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