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Tips for Choosing the Perfect Christmas Tree

Planning Ahead Really Pays Off

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This is a perfect Christmas tree.

Simple decorations make this Christmas tree look perfect.

Decide Where to Place the Tree - Avoid placing your tree near a heat source (sunny windows, radiators, heating vents, and fireplaces). Try to keep the tree out of high traffic areas where it might be bumped or overturned, or where someone might trip on light cords. Avoid any spot that might be dangerous, such as next to a fire in the fireplace or up on a wobbly table.

Measure Twice - Before you go shopping or hunting for that "perfect tree," you'll need to decide where it will fit in your home. See placement tips above, but once a spot is chosen be sure to measure BOTH the ceiling height and the width of that space. Write these numbers down on a piece of paper. Also, measure your tree stand to determine the maximum diameter of the tree trunk you can use in it. Finally, measure the height of your tree stand as well as the height of your treetop decoration. Use all these measurements to determine the perfect height and width of the tree you'll select for your home.

Take a Tape Measure - Take the tape measure with you when you shop. You'll need it to measure the trees you consider so you don't take home a 7" diameter tree trunk for your 5" diameter stand or a 9 foot tall tree if your ceilings are only 8 feet.

Before Leaving Home - Take heavy gloves to protect your hands, and a tape measure to help select the right size tree. Find an old blanket to protect your car from pine needles and sap. Take twine or rope to tie it securely to the car (unless you know the tree lot will provide this). Locate a saw so a fresh cut can be made before placing the tree in water. Fill a bucket with lukewarm water so your tree can start drinking water as soon as it gets home and has a fresh cut. Find your tree stand (or determine if you'll need a new one) and set it up. Confirm the maximum tree trunk diameter that will fit into the stand.

Tree Stands - Choose a tree stand that is sturdy and the right size. Pay attention to the size of tree trunk that each stand will accommodate. The taller your tree, the bigger diameter of the trunk. If you have a tall, wide room, be sure to get a large stand for the large tree you'll select. If you'll put your tree on a table, a smaller stand will work fine. Look for tree stand models that hold lot of water. You'll spend less time refilling the water pan throughout the season. Get a stand that is easily adjustable so the tree can be leveled. For more, see our article on Top Picks for Tree Stands.

Choosing a Tree - Trees with shorter needles (such as Fraser or Noble Fir) are often easier to decorate than others, as they offer some space between branches for decorations as well as some stronger stems to hold heavier ornaments. Learn more about the many types of Christmas trees and find out the characteristics and uses of each type. Get more information on types of trees.

Space Between Branches - Keep in mind that a tree looks better when the ornaments hang straight. Many trees today are groomed to be lush and full, so aware that ornaments may hang at an angle on these sheered trees. For ornaments to hang straight you'll want a tree with some space between the branches. To test a tree, take an unbreakable ornament with you and hang it on several branches to see if there is room for it to hang straight.

Select a Fresh Tree - How can you tell if a tree is fresh? The needles should look shiny, green, and fresh -- not dry or brown. They should not fall off when you pull on a branch. Read more about Selecting a Fresh Christmas Tree in this article from About.

Transporting your Tree - If possible lay the tree inside your car or trunk for the drive home. This will be difficult unless you have a large van or truck. If you drive with the tree on the roof of your car, you must tie it securely to the car. You may want to wrap it in a tarp or old blanket.

Next: Setting It Up, Trimming It, Watering It, and Caring for It

~ Coral Nafie

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