How to

30 November 2016

Holiday Joy: Choosing a Tree

There’s nothing that quite sets the mood for the season like picking out the perfect Christmas tree. You might not be the one doing the actual chopping, but you’ve taken the lead in selection and are shelling out the funds. So, it’s in your best interest this year to keep a few things in mind while tree-shopping.

Decide where the tree will be placed

The designated location of your tree will determine what shape works best for the space. Will all sides of the tree be visible or will it be up against a wall? Choosing a tree based on the available display space will make the process much easier. For example, a tree meant to fit a corner won’t need to be fluffy all around. Remember, this tree will be like another family member in the home, occupying space and requiring maintenance. Ceiling height is obviously of the utmost important as this will further limit your search.
  • For safety reasons, it’s imperative that the designated area be away from heat sources, including TVs, fireplaces, air ducts, and radiators. Be sure to do a thorough visual check of the area, paying attention to ceilings and walls; this safeguards against accidental fires.

Measure once, twice, many times over

Measuring cannot be done too many times. You are, after all, bringing giant foliage into the house, so you’d better have triple-measured the designated tree area. Imagine the embarrassment of painstakingly picking out your perfect tree, purchasing it, and having to bring it right back because it mercilessly scrapes your ceiling.
  • Write down your measurements on a piece of paper (not in your phone), and bring a tape measure with you to the tree lot. Don’t forget to tote along a cord to strap the tree down with!

Purchase early and be choosy

If you’ve decided to take the plunge into real tree territory, do so before the mad rush in early December. If you wait till mid-December, you’ll be left wandering through rows of picked-over, dried trees, more than a few with an errant branch missing. Bear in mind that tree lots are full of trees that may have been cut weeks earlier. Many of the lots in urban areas have their trees shipped in, sometimes from out of state. Travel exposes trees to drying winds and battery. If possible, pick a tree that has been recently cut.
  • Ask the manager of the lot whether the trees were delivered at the beginning of the season or if they are delivered throughout the selling season.

Look for the green

Keep a sharp eye out for fresh trees. These will be a vibrant green with few brown spots. To test freshness, run a hand through one of the branches. The needles should be flexible and not fall off when exposed to pressure. Another test is to raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it onto its stump. If it’s healthy, few green needles should fall off though brown ones falling off is normal.
  • Ensure that the base of the tree is 6-8 inches long. This will allow it to stand up properly in its stand.

Planning on Chopping your Own?

Some farmers grow trees specifically for the winter season. Such places offer the full tree-choosing experience by providing saws for visitors to chop down their own tree. Prices can be for individual trees or by the foot, so be sure to ask before getting overly-invested. There are a few things to keep in mind if you are gearing up for this venture.
  • Look around the tree for evidence of pests. Avoid specimen near ant hills at all costs.
  • Always handle the chopping device with care. Assume that it is very sharp.
  • Prepare for the day by dressing in comfortable, warm clothing and appropriate shoes. Bring waterproof gear if necessary.
  • Don’t forget gloves! As the bark is rough, you’ll be grateful you’ve brought them whether you’re chopping or loading.
  • Ask if the farm offers a shaking or blowing service. This will rid your tree of loose needles, saving you from a messy clean-up at home.
  • When checking out, ask for a tree removal bag. It can be used as a tree skirt throughout the holidays and then pulled up to contain falling needles while the tree is taken down.

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).