Thursday, December 01, 2005

On Picking a Tree Part I

Part 1: Artificial Trees

The artificial tree has come a long way from its weird metal beginnings. Of course, you can still get an aluminum or pink Christmas tree if you know where to look, but in general, they can well mimic the real thing.

Is an artificial tree right for you? Consider the following:

-It's hypoallergenic, doesn't shed, and is fire-resistant.
-It doesn't need to be watered.
-It's designed to be both stable and lightweight.
-You can set it up at the beginning of the month and know it will still look good at Christmas.
-Pricewise, you recoup your investment within five years (less for smaller versions.)

-You have to store the thing.
-Unless you buy a pricey one, there's still a good chance it will look fake.
-Again with the price: you may not be able to afford it.
-If you love the smell of Christmas trees, fake pine just doesn't cut it.*
-Like many other things, artificial trees are subject to the vagaries of fashion; right now there is no such thing as "medium" size (big and small exclusively), trees tend to be slim rather than full, and pre-lit trees are almost the only choice.

Pre-lit trees have their own pro and con. If you hate stringing lights, that's a pro, but if you would rather have flexibililty, that's a con. Pre-lit trees are best for those who have little time or inclination to decorate, such as seniors. My personal take is that I am leery of something that could break and be difficult to fix.

Artificial trees in general tend to be good with small children who are at the age of sticking things in their mouths, because while they still will gnaw on the tree, they won't be able to swallow it, anyway. They're also ideal for people who have lots and lots of ornaments because the strength of the branches is a given, as opposed to that of a real tree, and ornaments can be stuck deep within the branches without worrying about getting pricked by the needles (or throwing the ornaments out at the end of the season.)

When setting up an artifical tree, be sure to read the directions. For instance, many trees with flexible wire branches ask you to curve the branches upwards. This makes the tree look much more realistic and fuller. If you don't read the directions, you might end up wondering why it doesn't look like the picture on the box. Be sure to rotate the tree while setting it up to make sure it looks symmetrical. And if it's not pre-lit, consider tying an extension cord to the center pole before you put any greenery on; it will give you a handy place to plug in the lights.

As you can probably guess, I grew up with artificial trees, so I never missed the real ones. And as for the pine smell of Christmas, that smell makes me think of camping instead.

Next up: Potted Trees

*My personal theory as to why they never get the smell of pine right is that they deal with the needles exclusively, rather than understanding that "pine" is a gestalt of the needles, the bark, the sap and even a faint hint of dry dirt.

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