Happy Thanksgiving Friends!
If you're considering a visit to your local tree farm to cut down a fresh Christmas Tree this year, this post is for you! I'm about to share some super top secret tips on choosing the perfect, fresh-cut tree for your space. Including the variety that's best for you depending on your decorations/size of your space, things you need to know before cutting one down, tips for caring for your fresh tree and secret tips to make it last!
Last year just before Christmas, I shared a brief moment on my instagram page of my youngest son, Max, and his Christmas wish for a "real tree". On a whim, we decided to pack up the faux tree that was already decorated in our living room, drive out to the tree farm and make his wish come true. Looking back on that day, our last minute excursion turned out to be the highlight of Christmas 2015 for the entire family. The image above is the tree we cut down from The Nicklas Tree Farm in Metamora, Michigan...
Our family plans to return to the Nicklas Tree Farm this year. This time, however, I wanted to be a little more prepared. Last year was first time we ever had a real tree and there was a lot I didn't know. I had no idea what type of tree was best for us, how to care for the tree and what to look for before cutting one down.
Last week, I paid an early visit to The Nicklas Tree Farm and got the inside scoop! I now have all the secrets behind fresh Christmas trees from an interview with Bridget and Andy Nicklas. It wouldn't be nice of me to keep this golden information to myself and I wouldn't want to end up on the naughty list. So, while I share some photos from our visit last year, I'll dish...
What are the most popular tree varieties at the farm?
Norway, Blue Spruce, White Pine and Fraser Fir
What variety is best for holding large or heavy ornaments?
Blue Spruce is the best for holding heavy ornaments and/or a large collection. Norway would come in second. These two varieties tend to have more strong, rigid branches that won't bend from the weight of ornaments. White Pine and Fraser Fir can hold ornaments, just not large or heavy decorations as the branches tend to be softer.
What are the main differences between these varieties?
Blue Spruce has a strong blue tint. It is lighter in color than the other varieties. The needles are short and prickly. The typical shape of the Blue Spruce tree is that true, traditional, triangular Christmas tree shape.
The Norway is similar to the Blue Spruce in overall shape and also has shorter, prickly needles, but the color is very different. The Norway features a deeper, more "Forrest Green" color. It can hold some heavier ornaments.
The White Pine has a nice, medium green color base. It typically very full, has long, wispy needles and soft branches. While it looks beautiful decorated with light ornaments, it does not hold heavy ornaments or lots of decorations very well. The White Pine grows in a more irregular shape than the other varieties which gives this tree a lot of interest and character.
The Fraser Fir has a deep, green color base and tends to grow tall and narrow. It has shorter needles than the White Pine, but longer than the Blue Spruce and Norway. The branches are stronger than the White Pine, yet the needles are still somewhat soft. The Fraser Fir holds ornaments a little better than the White Pine, but not as well as the Blue Spruce and Norway.
What are some things that we should look for when choosing the best shaped tree for our space? Are certain varieties better for large rooms or smaller rooms?
The Fraser Fir is a great option for a room that is short on floor space as they tend to grow tall and narrow. The White Pine tends to be a little plumper and usually works well in spaces with more floor space to spare. Depending on where you are placing your tree in your home, you may want to consider a "three sided tree". A three sided tree is one that is full on three sides and a little flatter on the back. This allows you to place the tree close to the wall while still maintaining a perfectly full appearance on three sides.
When you are selecting your tree, check out the trunk. If the tree has a somewhat straight trunk, it should stand nice and straight once you get it home. If the trunk is not straight, you may find that it looks crooked once it's in the tree stand and placed in your living room and you'll have to make adjustments to get it to stand straight.
Do some trees have a stronger fragrance than others?
The Blue Spruce has the strongest fragrance of the four varieties discussed here. The Norway is second, Fraser Fir is third and the White Pine has very little to no scent. If you are looking forward to that fresh tree smell, the Blue Spruce and Norway will provide that. If you're not a fan of the fresh tree smell, the White Pine is for you.
Do certain varieties last longer than others?
The life of your tree depends mostly on proper care (which I'll get to in a minute). However, some varieties do tend to drop their needles faster than others. While it can be a long-lasting variety, the Blue Spruce seems to shed it's needles quite a bit throughout the season. The Norway comes in second, the White Pine is third. The Fraser Fir is typically the longest lasting of these varieties and tends to retain it's needles the best of these four tree types.
For someone coming to the farm to cut down a fresh tree for the first time, what is your best tip?
Measure. Decide where you are placing your tree and measure that space prior to visiting the tree farm. Take the measurement and your tape measure with you. When you are outside looking at a tree, it will appear to be much smaller than it actually is. It will look much larger once it's brought inside your home. Having a measurement to guide your selection for both the height and the girth will help you choose a tree that will fit your space (think Griswold's). Make sure you leave enough space for your tree stand and to accommodate any decorative tree topper (your star or angel).
What are some tips to make your fresh tree last as long as possible?
Keeping the tree watered at all times is the most important tip. Especially during the first week.
After cutting your tree down, wait a day before bringing it inside. Keeping it outside for 24 hours after cutting it down will help it adjust.
Just before bringing it in, cut a sliver off the bottom. Sap gathers on the bottom of the tree once it has been cut which creates a barrier that prevents the tree from absorbing water efficiently. Cutting a small sliver off the bottom will remove this sap build-up, re-expose the base and allow the tree to drink in more water through the trunk.
Avoid placing your tree near a heat source. If there are heat registers near the area where you would like to set up your tree, close off the vent to help to keep the tree from drying out quickly.
After 2-3 weeks of enjoying the tree, carefully pouring boiling water into the stand can help it last longer. It will melt any sap build up that has occurred and allow the tree to drink in more water.
Drilling a few holes in the base of the tree, just under the water line can also help the tree absorb more water.
Do you have any other tips?
Take advantage of the tree shaking and wrapping service at the farm. Having the tree shaken and wrapped before bringing it home cuts down on the mess bringing in a real tree can otherwise create and makes traveling with your tree easier. Purchase a tree disposal bag and place it under the tree skirt to make disposal easy and mess free. Wearing gloves while decorating and/or stringing lights can help if you are sensitive to prickly needles (like that of the Blue Spruce).
The last tip is to dress warm so you can take your time and enjoy this experience to the fullest. The Nicklas Tree Farm is a family owned and operated farm located in Metamora, Michigan. It offers a full holiday experience that is much more than just cutting down the family Christmas tree. It starts with Hot Cocoa and Fresh, Hot Roasted Chestnuts, a hay ride through picturesque acres of trees, warming stations to warm up while searching for the perfect tree, happy families to meet and friendly hands to help bring your tree to the shaking/wrapping station.
Last year when we visited the farm on a whim to make our little Max's wish come true, we were surprised by the amazing experience it turned out to be. Don't forget to take your camera to the tree farm, the scenery is pretty amazing and it's a day you will want to remember!
Oh, one more thing, double check the hours before heading to your tree farm. You don't want to miss the last wagon out to the tree patches!
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