You’re a sap when it comes to traditions, which means you’d never settle for boughs made of metal or plastic. But on the flipside, you’ve had too many fresh-cut promises dry up, leaving puddles of pine needles to decorate your hardwoods. So before you hit the lots in search of that perfect eight-footer, take the advice of Certified Professional Horticulturalist Leslie F. Halleck. Here, she doles out tips on selecting a natural Christmas tree and discloses her favorite shopping spots for varieties that outlast the season.
Find Your Match
Consider your decor when selecting a tree. Be sure to measure your space—both height and width—before you shop. There’s nothing worse than finding out your tree doesn’t fit once you get it home. Choose a tree that’s six to 12 inches shorter than your ceiling to accommodate your topper.
There are several varieties of trees you’ll likely find around town. Some are familiar names, while others may be new to you.
1. Balsam fir: This quintessential, traditional Christmas tree is tall, slender, and aromatic—and ideal for small spaces.
2. Douglas fir: Full and wide, it’s a good option for larger rooms. It features long, soft needles and puts off a sweet fragrance.
3. Fraser fir: Not too full or thin, it’s the perfect in-between shape, with long, dark-green needles and silver undersides. The scent is quite pleasant, too.
4. Noble fir: With stiff, upright branches and short, thick needles, it’s good for supporting heavy ornaments. This species is beautiful and long lasting.
5. Scotch pine: Its upward-curving branches are strong enough for heavier ornaments, and its long needles don’t drop, even once the tree is dry.
My favorite? The Burton Blue Noble fir is hard to beat in my book. Newish to the Dallas market, this beauty can be bought both sheared to shape or in its natural form. If you love the contemporary look of silver to blue foliage, the Burton Blue is for you. My runner-up is the Nordmann fir, with its soft, dark-green needles. Both are exceptionally long lasting.
Pick Like a Pro
• Survey all sides. It’s hard to evaluate a tree that’s bundled in netting; you could discover a bare spot once you unfurl it at home. Do a full spin on an un-netted tree before you buy.
• Make sure the trees you’re shopping are set up in water. Dry trees will only dry out faster.
• Ask if the trees have been pre-shaken to remove loose needles. Then have a staffer cover the tree in netting for your trip home.
• Some retailers will tie your tree onto your roof rack for you; others won’t. (Some may ask you to sign a car-damage waiver if they tie the tree on for you.)
Keep it Fresh
• Have the nursery or tree lot perform a fresh cut to the base of the trunk (removing half- to three-quarters of an inch) before it’s wrapped up. If more than two hours pass before you get your tree into fresh water, be prepared to get out the saw to perform another fresh cut to the base of the trunk before you set it up.
• Indoor air is dry. Placing your tree close to heater vents will make it harder to keep your tree fresh and ups the fire-hazard risk.
• A fresh-cut tree can drink half a gallon of water a day; larger trees, a full gallon. The chief reason many fresh trees don’t last through the holiday season is a lack of fresh water. Use a tree stand that holds a few gallons of water and top it off every day. Use a water sensor, which blinks when water gets low, to remind you when to refill.
Tip: If your tree seems to stop taking water after setup, pull out a serrated pocketknife and make a few slits in the bark below the waterline.
Where I Buy:
• North Haven Gardens
7700 Northaven Rd.
• Sandone Christmas Trees
6555 E. Northwest Hwy.
• Calloway’s Nursery