By Kathy Van Mullekom
Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
Whether you are a fresh-cut or faux Christmas tree household, there are plenty of options for decorating your home with the biggest, brightest and best.
For the nostalgic who think Christmas is only Christmas when there’s a good-smelling real tree dropping needles all over the floor, you’ll be happy to know there are many good options, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (www.realchristmastree.org).
The Scotch pine is the most common Christmas tree with 1-inch-long needles that don’t drop, even under the driest of home conditions.
White pine is the largest of its kind, but its soft needles aren’t good for heavy ornaments.
White spruce is ideal for ornaments because its stiff branches display them so nicely.
For a good smell and excellent form, you may want to hunt for Fraser fir, a dark blue-green tree with sturdy, evenly placed branches that are ideal for displaying lights and ornaments. They grow best in the higher elevations of mountains where the colder weather enhances their vigor and shape.
Faux fans will like some of the newest trends in artificial trees, including the 100 percent PVC-free Williamsburg Pine, available for $450 and up from Christmas Tree for Me at www.ChristmasTreeForMe.com.
The tree is in response to environmentally conscious customers who want to eliminate PVC from their homes because they are parents or have family members who have adverse reactions to chemicals contained in PVC, according to founder Bill Quinn.
“The branches on most modern artificial Christmas trees are a mixture of PE [polyethylene] and PVC [polyvinyl chloride],” he says. “In addition, the center pole is wrapped with a thin PVC wrap to help the center pole blend with branches.
“The branches on the Williamsburg use PE branches exclusively, while the center pole is covered with natural wood pulp instead of a PVC.”
In general, tree technology has advanced tremendously, especially in the past five years, according to Brad Whited, senior merchant at Home Depot.
“We launched EcoSmart LED lighting, which features exclusive new technology of fully water-resistant strings, replaceable and super bright bulbs, continuous-on lights [meaning if one breaks or comes loose, the rest stay lit], and warm, white bulbs,” he says.
“Many of these varieties feature low voltage LEDs that are safer for use inside the home and EZ Shape branches that require less effort to shape during setup.”
Home Depot also offers more slim tree options, such as the Wesley Pencil Pine Artificial Christmas Tree, that feature a tall thin design that can be displayed in any narrow corner or used as an accent along a walkway or stairway.
The Wesley tree line also features a “quick set” option that has an integrated connection built into the center pole to create an instant electrical connection as you put the tree together.
“No more hassling each year to try and figure out which plug goes into which socket,” says Whited. “Just connect the pole and the lights come on.”
Prices for this new innovation include $39.97 for the EcoSmart lights, $299 for EZ Shape trees and $99-$149 for the Wesley trees.
If you like your Christmas tree to entertain you with music while you gaze at all its glitter, you need Lowe’s “One Plug Dancing Tree,” a 7-footer that shapes itself and plugs into your MP3 player for an LED light display that syncs to your favorite holiday tunes. Cost for that personalized concert is $349.
And, if you can’t decide between a fresh-cut or faux tree, there is a good option at Home Depot. The new GE LED prelit Nordic pine comes with easy-shape branches that are variegated to look like the real thing. Its LED lights glow with the same soft, warm look as older incandescent lights while still saving you energy-bill money to offset its $299 cost.
Kathy Van Mullekom is the gardening columnist for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.
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