How to Purchase a Perfect Christmas Tree

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The best thing about decorating your home for Christmas is filling it with the seductive scent of pine needles. Whether you buy a cut or living tree, freshness is the key to longevity, fragrance and beauty. Here's a guide to finding--and keeping--the perfect tree.

  • Keep a live tree in a container outside during the year and move it into the living room every December.

  • Decide among the most common types of tree. In a tree farm, you'll typically find Afghan pine, Balsam fir, blue spruce, douglas fir, frasier fir, leyland cyprus and noble fir. Afghan pines have short needles with sturdy branches, an open appearance and mild fragrance. They're grown in Texas. Balsam fir have 3/4- to 1/2-inch short, flat, long-lasting fragrant needles that are rounded at the tip. They're dark green and dense with a silvery cast. Blue spruce are dark green to powdery blue with stiff needles that drop in a warm room. The branches are stiff, supporting heavy ornaments. The aromatic douglas fir is blue to dark green. When the needles are crushed, they smell better than most. Frasier firs have flattened needles, pyramid-shaped branches and are usually shipped by mail-order. Leyland cyprus is a feathery-needled tree popular in the Southeastern U.S. the Noble fir has bluish needles with a silvery appearance. It's dense with short, stiff branches. This is what's typically used in wreaths, door swags and garlands.

  • Cut your own at a tree farm for the ultimate evergreen. If you're buying a cut tree, check to see how fresh it is. The fragrance should be strong. Grasp a branch and pull on the pine needles; if they pull out easily, the tree has dried out already.

  • To aid water absorption, quickly put the tree in a stand with water in it and keep it filled. A 6-foot tree will drink a gallon of water every two days. Leave the tree outside in water until you are ready to decorate.

  • TREE DESCRIPTION Afghan Pine Short needles with sturdy branches; open appearance; mild fragrance; keeps well; grown in Texas. Balsam Fir 3/4-to 1 1/2-inch short, flat, long-lasting needles that are rounded at the tip; dark green color with silvery cast, fragrant, dense. Blue Spruce Dark green to powdery blue, very stiff needles, 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches long; good form; will drop needles in a warm room; symmetrical; best among species for needle retention. Branches are stiff and will support many heavy decorations. Douglas Fir Good fragrance; blue to dark green, holds 1 to 1 1/2 inch needles well; needles have one of the best aromas among Christmas trees when crushed. Good, conical shape; dense. Most common Christmas tree in the Pacific Northwest. Frasier Fir Dark green, flattened needles; 1/2 to 1 inch long; good needle retention; nice scent; pyramid-shaped strong branches that turn upward; dense. Often shipped by mail-order companies. Leyland Cypress Foliage is dark green to gray color; upright branches with a feathery appearance; light scent; good for people with allergies to other Christmas tree types. Popular Southeastern U.S. Christmas tree. Noble Fir 1-inch-long, bluish green needles with a silvery appearance; dense; short stiff branches; keeps well; is used to make wreaths, door swags and garlands.

Tips & Warnings

  • Have the salesperson make a fresh, straight cut across the base. Try to get the tree home and into a bucket of water outside within half an hour of cutting it.

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