Written By Cari Pierce

Husband and kids? In the car and ready. Fleecy hats and gloves? Check. Warm boots? Roger.

If you’re ticking through this list, it can only mean that it’s time to embark on the annual hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. Beginning the day after Thanksgiving, Carroll County’s hillsides and valleys embrace thousands of families out to choose a fir, spruce or pine – a tree worthy of their gifts under its branches. With so many trees from which to choose and with dozens of Christmas tree farms and lots in the county, finding the perfect tree can be an experience that’s only as difficult as actually making a choice.

Of course, the choice depends heavily on your criteria. Hands down, the pungent, earthy smell of a Douglas fir will boost your home’s holiday spirit. But for the best-to-decorate winner that – as a bonus – smells great too, think Fraser fir. A Scotch pine is the classic Christmas tree with a bright green color and good needle retention.

Feeling modern? Join the growing following of the nectarine-sweet fragrance of a Concolor fir. For a tree with a good, natural shape, set your sights on a White spruce. Hark the herald, conservationists! A live, balled-root Christmas tree is the ideal way to enjoy a traditional tree in your home and a lasting gift to your landscape at holiday’s end. The golden rule of tree-selection : make sure your wishes aren’t larger than what your tree stand and home can bear. Measure, measure, and measure again. You wouldn’t believe how often a room’s available space isn’t considered when selecting a tree. In my house, we promised never to mention again the year we had to wedge the tree into the corner with the branches twisted againstÉ oh, nevermind.

Although tree girth can’t be adjusted (Oh, how I relate to that!), height can. Have your heart set on the fourth tree you saw – the 9’ Douglas fir you marked with a stick back in the seventh row? If your home’s ceiling
won’t accommodate its height, Ronnie Sewell, owner of Sewell’s Farm, indicates that there’s no harm in cutting off the extra length from the bottom once you bring it home. Use the trimmed-off greens, Sewell says, for additional home decoration.

First, getting your tree home means getting it to your vehicle. Let the tree farm staff transport it for you.. If Mr. I-Cut-It-I’ll-Carry-It-Myself insists on the privilege, make sure the tree is carried, not dragged. Dragging can break off the small buds at the end of the branches and cause damage to the needles – reducing the tree’s life once it’s in your home. Before leaving the farm, take an extra moment to have the loose needles shaken out and the tree baled for easier transport and set-up.

Once home, don’t lay the tree down for long periods, give the trunk a fresh cut of at least a half inch and keep it in a bucket of water – protected from frost, sun and wind – until you’re ready to bring it in the house. Taking a tree from the farm to the living room is a shock to the tree. Keeping a fresh-cut tree in the garage for a few days will actually help it keep its needles longer once you’ve brought it indoors.

For the care of real trees, don’t add anything to the water. Sewell
says adding bleach, aspirin or other additives to the water doesn’t benefit the tree. They don’t get a daily Bayer and shot of Clorox on the farm! The National Christmas Tree Association seconds this advice and discourages drilling a hole in the trunk’s base, indicating this doesn’t improve water uptake. Just check the water level daily, adding more as needed. Balled-root trees – live trees – require similar care. Keep the root ball damp, not soaked, with water and ask the tree farm for the best replanting practices.

Pre-cut trees can offer all the joy of a choose-and-cut tree without all the searching, sniffling, shivering and sawing – just shop carefully and ask questions. Some pre-cut trees are wonderfully fresh, but others may have been cut weeks before, which, cautions Roger Wolfe from Pine Valley Farms, “can compromise the tree’s lasting looks, fragrance and safety.”

If a no-muss, no-fuss artificial tree is your choice, you’re in luck. Today’s artificial trees are so life-like that – with a few spritz of pine-scented spray – your holiday guests may never know the difference. According to Kris Kelly, manager of Bowman’s Home & Garden gift shop, which sells a selection of artificial trees, most manufacturers of
artificial trees offer slim or traditional, “fat”-style lines. Most now come pre-lit – read: no more annual aggravation of untangling that knot of lights. Ranging in height from 2 to 12 feet and in price from $15 to $600, there’s an artificial tree to fit any budget and home.

Go on now – they’re waiting for you in the car. Happy hunting to all and to all a great tree.