No artificial tree can replace a living pine, which will permeate your whole home with its subtle perfume. Whether it’s a small table topper or a 3 metre (10 foot) showstopper, the tree is the centrepiece of holiday decorating. Here are a few pointers to help keep a fresh tree looking its best during the season.
Choosing your Christmas tree
• Decide where you are going to place the tree, making sure it will be away from heat sources, such as sunny windows, fireplaces or heaters.
• Determine the size of the tree you need. Not only the height, but also the width: the room may accommodate a 2 metre (61/2 foot) tree, but will the space comfortably hold a tree that is 1.5 metres (5 feet) in diameter? When determining the height, allow about 45 cm (18 inches) for the tree topper and stand.
• Your tree selection is a personal preference. Do you want a slender or a classic Christmas tree shape, sparse or dense branches, a pronounced pine aroma or a mild scent, green or blue-green needles?
• Check for dryness. Hold your hand loosely around a branch and pull towards the tip, letting the branch slip through your fingers. On a fresh tree, only a few needles will come off. Another quick test is to bump the trunk of the tree on the ground; the green needles should not fall off the tree.
• Look for a tree that has a straight trunk. Avoid those with a split trunk, musty odour, wrinkled bark, or that look wilted.
Maintaining your Christmas tree
Now you’ve picked the perfect tree, keep it as fresh as possible by following these guidelines.
• Remove 0.5–2.5 cm (1/4–1 inch) from the cut end of the trunk – just cut straight across the trunk. Then immediately place the tree in water.
• Use a tree stand that fits the tree, don’t trim the trunk down. Also use a stand that holds water.
• Check the water daily. An average tree can absorb 1–4.5 litres (1 quart to 1 gallon) of water a day. The water level should be above the cut end of the trunk. If it falls below the end, a sap seal may form over the cut and interfere with the tree’s ability to absorb water.
• If necessary, a tree can be stored in a cool, dry location, away from wind or sun. Just check the water level in the stand and refill as needed.
More Christmas tree tips
• In the good old days, real candles were placed on the tree, often with drastic consequences. Safer modern alternatives include shiny rosettes, silvery bells and tinselled balls, lacquered spangles and coloured beads.
• Before you toss out your fresh tree, check with your local council or authority to see if they have a Christmas tree recycling program. Many areas will have a special pick-up for used Christmas trees and will chip them for mulch.