Local providers offer tips for selecting perfect Christmas tree

Many things go into deciding what makes a perfect Christmas tree. There is the size. The shape. The ability of a tree to hold its needles, as well as to hold ornaments. And the smell, you certainly can’t forget the smell.
But people in the tree business are quick to tell you that all the logical reasons to pick a tree fall to the wayside as people picking out trees are often reminded of what really matters.
“A lot of it is what you grew up with,” said Richard LaBute, owner of Buffalo Hills Tree Farm. “And what tree brings nostalgic memories back to you.”
Jan Donelson, co-owner of Jan’s Cut Your Own Christmas Trees in Clear Lake, agrees that a perfect tree comes down to something much more than just being symmetrical or the right size.
“What makes a perfect tree is what you put on it,” said Donelson. “And what you create. It’s an opportunity to express yourself.”
That being said, tree experts agree there are certain ways you can put yourself ahead of the game, even before you carefully hang that first decoration from your tree’s outstretched limb.
For starters, if you want to be ahead of the game, you have to get out early. Some tree places, including Buffalo Hills, won’t open till the day after Thanksgiving. But many, including Jan’s, are already open on the weekends and are seeing people who host for the holidays come out now so they are prepared ahead of time.
While Donelson and LaBute agree that most people won’t turn out till after Thanksgiving, a big rush can be expected then. The first two weekends tend to be the busiest tree-cutting weekends. If you want first pick, you need to be prepared to make a trip to a tree farm shortly after Thanksgiving, if not before.
Whether you’re headed to the tree farm this weekend, or in a couple of weeks, should you be worried about the effect the drought had on this year’s crop?
No, according to Donelson.
“It’s been a great year for trees,” she said. “Trees are kind of funny, because they go dormant in August.”
Therefore, they were unaffected by many of the worst parts of the drought.
So, with reasons to get out to a tree farm, and to do it relatively soon, it’s important to know what you’re looking for when you get out there.
Again, the perfect tree is different for each person.
But for many people, firs are turning into the most popular, or perfect, tree. Donelson says it used to be pine trees that were the top seller, but as time has gone on, people have transitioned to firs, especially those of the Balsam and Fraser varieties.
She believes that people are first attracted to firs for a reason other than the look.
“You fall in love with the smell,” said Donelson. “If you were going to buy a fragrance that smelled like Christmas, that is what a fir smells like.”
But firs do have other benefits besides a beautiful smell.
They have short needles, which have grown increasingly popular, and they also have a tendency to do well at holding their needles, creating less of a mess when it comes to be Christmas cleanup time.
But there are plenty of other choices. LaBute says the perfect tree is “whatever makes you happy.” And for him, that is a Blue Spruce. While they are considered a bit tougher to handle, and they shed needles a bit easier, LaBute says you could pretty much hang a pickup tree from it, and that sturdiness makes up for some of the cons for him.
As for the size of your tree, well that depends on your situation. With an eight-foot ceiling, you’re probably looking at a six-foot tree. But with vaulted ceilings becoming more and more popular, trees can be found from nine feet tall all the way up to a towering 20 feet. Just remember, the bigger the tree, the bigger the stand that is needed.
Regardless of what tree you decide on, there are a few keys to keep in mind throughout your relationship with the tree.
The first one is the most important. Water.
“Ninety percent of the time when a tree fails, it’s due to a lack of water,” said Donelson.
To combat that, there are a couple of things you can do. First, it’s important to have a fresh cut on the tree when you bring it into the house and put it in the stand. Secondly, it’s important to keep that stand full with water, especially in the first couple of days, when the stand may need to be refilled multiple times per day.
If you keep the tree from going thirsty, it will be much more likely to keep its needles and its colors.
Other ways to take care of your tree include keeping it away from direct sunlight and away from heat sources. Both of those will speed up the drying out of your tree.
One other helpful tip that will speed up the cleaning process in January is putting a cloth or towel down under and around the tree when you set it up. That allows for a much easier cleanup of needles.
No matter what tree you decide on, it’s also important to remember the purpose it serves.
“Christmas is about creating memories,” said Donelson. “That’s the fun of decorating the tree. It’s what makes is so special.”