Which tree should you get – fresh cut or artificial?
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, my answer used to be an immediate “absolutely fresh cut” tree for Christmas. It was what I had known my entire life and you could look around and find a Christmas tree farm not too far away. There is no better trigger for an entire life of wonderful memories than the fresh pine smell of the Christmas tree after it is brought into the house. Over the years, my opinion has changed. Some might call that simple maturity, others experience, but there really is a lot to consider in making the decision.
Cost. Fresh cut trees are not inexpensive – the bigger and taller the more expensive they get. And if you live in an area far from their source, the price goes up even more, while the freshness goes down. My grandparents actually lived across from a tree farm in Oregon. We would sit at the window watching the helicopters picking up bundles of trees and flying them off into the distance for shipping. That cannot be an inexpensive harvest method. It is cheaper to go “cut your own”, but for me, the live critter factor is a significant deterrent. Waking up the following morning to a caravan trail of spiders and bugs crawling across the ceiling and down the wall made it “once is enough” for me.
Transport. If you don’t have a truck, you tie it down to the top of your car. Do you really want to scratch your car roof to get it home? Have you ever seen a tree fall off the top of a car? I have…and so has the guy driving behind me. If you buy a flocked tree, it is even more difficult to get it home without damage. If you don’t want these headaches, you have to pay for someone to deliver it.
Time. Choosing the tree, transporting the tree or waiting for it to be delivered delays the start of decorating. Then, if it is a really big tree (10′ or taller) and you want it flocked, you need to wait even longer. Once you have the tree, you need to spend 1 to 2 hours properly setting it up, stabilizing it, and adding lighting.
TIP: Stabilizing a tree means more than just setting it properly into the base. The taller trees need some kind of anchor at height to the wall. I learned the hard way not to skip this step. After spending days decorating the tree using beautiful and fragile glass ornaments, my slumber one night was harshly ended with the sound of a crash and breaking glass.
Height. If your space demands a smaller tree, the fullness or girth at the bottom can be disappointing. On the opposite spectrum, it is becoming more and more difficult to find “large” fresh cut trees (10′ or more). When we moved into this house, the family room high vaulted ceiling was my opportunity to see my dream come true to get a huge tree. Unfortunately, you couldn’t easily find them. I had to go every few days to inspect the new deliveries, only to be disappointed.
Tree shape and branch stability. When it comes to decorating, this is a huge factor. Except for the manicured Douglas fir (not great for decorating, as everything just lays on top), fresh cut trees are not perfectly shaped with equal spacing throughout the branches. I know from experience, as do family members I drag along to pick one with me. No matter how long you take to look for the perfect tree, you won’t find one. Additionally, as they dry out, the branches begin to sag. Not only a fire hazard, but a decor dilemma. Many of the decorations are actually very heavy, and it is difficult to secure them safely and in the right location on fragile branches. Even using my favorite fresh cut tree fir, Noble or Fraser, this is still a significant factor in decorating.
It was a huge shift for me, but after convincing myself it was the right thing to do, I made the decision to change to an artificial tree. I wanted a 12′ tree, so that decorated, it would stretch to 14′. My concern was the girth at the base of such a tall tree taking up too much living space. My husband’s concern was my ability to access the height safely to decorate (and also the cost of buying an even taller ladder). I looked for a pre-lit tree that had a lot of tips to the branches and textures that looked fairly realistic. I ended up purchasing a Vickerman pre-lit 10′ tree. Additional bonus – my husband now can’t say I never listen! The first year I decorated using the artificial tree, I was nervous about its reception. At first the family was unsure, but once decorated, they applauded the result. The best reaction was from friends. A large gathering of women held a progressive Christmas decoration appreciation party. We ended the evening at my home, where everyone applauded my decor theme and commented on how big and beautiful the fresh cut tree was!
The positives of owning an artificial tree:
Cost. Not inexpensive, but amortized over the years it will be similar to buying fresh cut each year with delivery.
Transport. It just has to be carried from the storage bay to the living room. It comes apart in sections to ease the difficulty and make it more managable.
Time. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I can start decorating for Christmas, giving us more days to enjoy the results. No more multiple trips looking for a nicely shaped tall tree. I don’t need to spend the first hour or two stabilizing the tree and imbedding lights from the trunk to the tips of the branches.
Height. Whichever height fits your space, there will be nice fullness and you have options on the girth of the tree (pencil, slim, or full).
Tree shape and branch stability. After a little fluffing, the tree is symmetrical, the branches are evenly spaced and strong enough to hold the weight of decorations. Extra large or heavy decor is doable. Symmetry and balance is easily achieved. the branches don’t sag with time.
MISC. No need to daily crawl under the low branches to keep the water filled, no potential water damage to the floor.
The negatives of owning an artificial tree:
You need a dry storage space. No fresh tree smell.
Now, back to the beginning. Which tree should you get – fresh cut or artificial? Here is where that maturity and experience kicks in….. That decision is yours to make! Consider all the factors I mentioned, decide how important each is to you, and do what is right for your situation. And remember, you can always change your mind next year!
One last comment on the cost. After all the rationalization, justification, acceptance, and finally ordering the artificial tree, I then realized I needed to buy a flocked tree as well. OOPS.