Here’s to Firsts: Pro Tips for Buying Your First Real Holiday Tree
There is something about a real tree that brings the holiday season to life. The deep pine scent can bring back memories of holidays past. And going to shop or cut a real tree is a holiday tradition for many families. However, with so many choices it can be overwhelming to purchase your first real holiday tree.
Where to Purchase Your Tree
Many families enjoy heading to a local tree farm each year to pick and then cut their own holiday tree, which can help give your family one of the freshest options possible. But, if this holiday tradition isn’t your preference, Ellyn McNeil, who owns Heritage Plantations Christmas Tree farm in Banks, Oregon, with her husband, says if you want to purchase a cut tree from a store or retailer make sure the trees are either in a water trough or hosed regularly so that it gets adequate water and does not dry out.
She also recommends buying your tree from a retailer that keeps their trees under a roof or shade, especially if you are in a warm or sunny location, in order to help protect the freshness. It is also important to remember retailers that bring in smaller shipments of newer trees throughout the season tend to have fresher trees versus retailers who get one shipment in November, says McNeil.
Picking Out Your Tree
Before you head for the lot or tree farm, consider where you will put the tree in your house and measure both the height and width of the available space to help inform your decision. Before falling in love with a tree, find trees that can fit in your space and then narrow your decision down from there. Many people find it helpful to bring a tape measure when they go tree shopping.
Once you find a tree that’s the right size, it is important to make sure that the tree is fresh. “Pull your hands along the branches of the tree. If the needles fall off, then the tree is not fresh. But if the branches are limber and the needles do not fall off, then you know you have a fresh tree,” says Bob Schaefer, general manager at Noble Mountain Tree Farm in Salem, Oregon.
Setting Up and Decorating Your Tree
If the retailer did not make a fresh cut on the trunk of the tree when you bought it, then you need to cut off the end of the trunk before you place the tree in water. Schaefer says that an older cut may have sealed over, and if you do not cut it off then the tree will not take in water. “You need to get the tree into water at least one to two hours after the fresh cut is made. Otherwise, it will be sealed over and you will need to make a new cut,” says Schaefer.
Make sure to be careful when decorating your real tree this season. Since one in three tree fires are due to electrical issues, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends connecting no more than three strands of mini light sets on your tree. Heat sources being too close to the tree may also cause one in six tree fires, says the USFA. Remember to place your tree at least three feet from heat sources, suggests the USFA.
Caring for Your Tree
If you do not provide fresh water for your tree, it will turn brown and not last through the holiday season and could increase fire risk, according to the USFA. McNeil says that you should keep a gallon of water in your tree stand and watch the water level closely during the first week, which is when it takes in the most water. You need to water it at least daily, but some trees may need to be watered twice a day, according to McNeil.
While many people buy a real tree for the evergreen smell, it often fades after a few days. The solution is to reach inside the tree and crush a few branches, suggests Schaefer. “The fragrance will explode and your house will smell great again,” says Schaefer.
By taking the time to select the tree that is the right fit for your home and care for your tree throughout the season, you can have one of the prettiest trees in your neighborhood this year.