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How to Choose a Real Christmas Tree

Whether you've done your research on firs, pines and spruces or prefer to go with gut feeling, follow these tips for finding the perfect Christmas tree this holiday season.

Buying a Christmas tree is one of the most exciting and crucial parts of the holidays — and the choices are plentiful.

If you've opted for a real tree, then the next stop is one of the tree lots around town.

There are two types of tree shoppers: those who do the research and those who go on gut feeling.

If you're a researcher, you'll need to decide which kind of tree you want. There are different varieties of firs, pines and spruces and each one has its own color, smell and needle types. Check out the Better Homes and Gardens guide to Christmas tree varieties to help you pick the best one for your home. 

If you'd prefer to browse until the perfect tree reveals itself, then follow the tips below to ensure you get a good one that lasts all the way through to Christmas morning.

Tips on Choosing a Real Christmas Tree — and Keeping It Fresh

The following advice come from Mike Bondi, a professor at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, who specializes in Christmas trees and is a spokesperson for the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association.

When you're on the tree lot:

  • Be sure you know what size (height and width) you need before heading to the retail lot. If you’re short on space, remember real Christmas trees can be found in smaller, table-top sizes, too.
  • Use the “Smell and Snap” test: Give the branch a gentle crush and smell the needles to check for a fresh Christmas tree fragrance. Then, bend a needle between your fingers; if it snaps, similar to a carrot, the tree is fresh.
  • Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration: excessive needle loss, discolored or yellow foliage and wrinkled bark, or a musty/mildew smell.

Once you've chosen a tree, here's how to keep it fresh:

  • Make a fresh cut on the bottom of the tree to open up the pores, which have been clogged by sap. Don’t worry about making the cut yourself — have the staff at your local lot cut off at least one-half inch — and put the tree in water as soon as possible.
  • Water, water, water! An average tree may consume between a quart and a gallon of water per day. Don’t forget to add water every day because if the water level drops below the cut end of the trunk, a seal will form and no more water will be absorbed by the tree unless another fresh cut is made. And, plain water is best, no additives needed.

How do you choose a Christmas tree? Share your tips and experiences below.

Chris J Kapsalis December 04, 2012 at 03:25 PM
A Way to make a free Christmas Tree. A 2 Dimensional Christmas Tree. If you are short on space or cash and want a Christmas Tree, there is a fun and easy way to make one free, or close to free. All you need is a stick, small nails, a glue gun and some cuttings. If you know of a Christmas type tree that needs punning, you have it made. Or a Christmas Tree lot that will give you some cuttings. Get a long stick like a 1"x 2" and as long as you want the tree high. Lay the stick on concrete and have all your supplies at hand. Start at the bottom and work your way up, using larger longer branches at the bottom and keeping the shape of a Christmas Tree as you work your way up. Use as flat as branches as possible. Prune if necessary. Nail each branch to the stick with two nails in each across, so they do not swing down when you stand it up. After you have the basic shape of a Christmas tree, use a good amount of glue from the glue gun to secure the branches at the stick and nails. Then fill in thin parts with other smaller branches, using again 2 nails in each branch. Glue gun again. Prune slightly to shape. Soon you will have a 2 dimensional Christmas tree ready for lights and ornaments. Stand the tree up in a window or on a wall and secure with a few screws and thin wire. It takes up very little space and looks like a Christmas tree, only flat.

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