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Nov 21, 2012

My father was a Christmas Tree Farmer. When I was a kid and guests came to our small town in the Canadian Rockies, they would get "The Tour". 

My Dad would drive people through the woods and pour out his life-long passion of growing and harvesting the best trees possible. You’d be amazed at his knowledge of and passion for Christmas trees!

I’ll save you the drive along cliff-side ledges, the explanation of biology and fertilization, and the inevitable sawdust in your hair.  To make it nice and easy for you, I’ve sifted through the greatest 8 tips on choosing and maintaining a great Christmas Tree!

1)  What's Your Type?

Interestingly, Eric says the tree type is merely in the eye of the beholder. There are many types (Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Blue Spruce, etc.) and all are great. Just choose one you love! 

2)  Avoid Clark’s mistake 

Know the actual height & width of your space. Trees look WAY smaller outside. Buy it at least 2' shorter than the ceiling height (i.e.  8' for a 10' ceiling). You need room for a star or angel on the top. Don't pull a Clark Griswold!

3)  Let’s talk trunks

Find a tree with a straight tree trunk that has at least 9" of trunk before the first set of branches. You need enough trunk to fit in your stand.  If possible, get your tree dealer to drill a center hole in the bottom of the trunk for you.My father assures me the 'better retailers' will do this for you - to help it stand straight and firm. 

4)  Needle Me This

Ask the dealer if your tree-of-choice is fresh-cut - you want it less than a week old.  However, if it’s coming from a frozen part of the country, it can be much older because dormancy will most likely have set in.  Here’s a good “freshness” test:  take a needle from a middle branch, hold it between finger and thumb and squeeze it. You can tell if the tree is a tinderbox if it snaps easily.  If it’s pliable and bounces back, you’ve got a winner!

5) How's the Haircut?

You need somewhere to hang all your gorgeous ornaments, so this one's important!  Ideally the tree should have been 'trimmed' earlier in the year, but not after summer.  Does it have a good shape? Great. But, is it so overly trimmed that it looks like a perfect cone with no branches extending out? If so, it was probably trimmed too recently and the branch ends haven't had time to grow out yet. This makes it hard to hang ornaments. 

6) To the quick 

When you get it home, cut 1/2 inch off the tree butt before putting in water.  The faster, the better, but aim for 30 minutes max.  This is to get rid if the dead tree cells and get to the live ones that are thirsty for water.  

7) H2Often

His most important rule?  The tree must NOT go dry!  Use a stand that will hold at least a gallon of water. Then feed it water. Just water - don't add anything to it.  If the water runs out, you have to cut the butt again to expose those live cells (a tough job after it's decorated).  Especially watch out for this the first two days - it'll amaze you how much water a tree drinks in those first days. 

8) Going Green? 

Don't ever try to tell my father that you get a fake tree because you're concerned about the environment. He'll explain that fake trees are made from oil products, which are non-renewable resources.  Then, he'll invite you to go for a drive to show you how a properly farmed plot of Christmas trees is renewable and useful to the environment. 

A Christmas tree is a central part of all our childhood memories. It certainly was central to my childhood. And, apparently I learned a thing or two from all the work and all those tours!


Reid has a passion for helping brokers & employers strategize fresh approaches to benefit plans that contain costs and increase access to care - helping employers & employees control their healthcare dime, time, and peace of mind. He writes & speaks around the country and is the Co-Founder & CEO of freshbenies.

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