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Christmas trees evolve with changing needs

For some, once the turkey and stuffing are finished, a Christmas tree quickly becomes the next holiday focus. Maybe you’re a fan of consistency and like faux trees. Or perhaps you wander tree lots for the perfect real one. There are trees for every style and situation, and all require some level of maintenance and set up.

Recently, some Christmas tree experts (we’re not really sure there is such a person, but these sources work with trees quite a bit) weighed in on trends and holiday do’s and don’ts regarding safety, maintenance and picking that perfect arboreal addition this holiday season.

Real deal

For those Las Vegans looking to cut and pick their own tree, Caliente is the place to be. The small Lincoln County town of about 1,000 residents sees its share of visitors during the holiday season. The area is home to pinion pines and juniper trees that can be cut with a permit.

Located a little more than two hours north of Las Vegas, off U.S. Highway 93, Caliente’s Bureau of Land Management office issues between 2,000 and 3,000 permits annually, allowing visitors to pick a tree anywhere in the area, as long as it is on BLM land.

Permits range between $5 and $10 and can be purchased by calling the Caliente field office at 775-726-8100. Four-wheel drive or vehicles with higher clearance are recommended, as many prime trees can be found off the beaten path. When purchasing a permit, ask the BLM for a map of the areas best for Christmas tree cutting.

If you’re Utah bound, St. George and Cedar City also have tree-cutting areas, and northern Arizona also produces some pretty pines on BLM land as well. For more information visit blm.gov.

Picking, maintaining

If you’re not a tree cutter but still like a real tree, there are plenty of lots around the valley, many of which bring in plenty of noble and Douglas fir harvests from Oregon, Washington and other areas of the country.

Marsha Grigsby, store manager of the Home Depot store at the corner of Pecos Road and Patrick Lane in Las Vegas, sees weekly tree shipments these days. Home Depot stores sell between 1,000 and 2,500 trees in a season, depending on the location. The trees are packed in snow when shipped in order to preserve freshness. The Home Depot manager offered a few tips for how to pick a healthy tree and keep it green throughout the holiday season.

“Trees can last 30, even 60 days,” she said. “You have to make sure there’s always 2 to 3 inches of water in the base.”

After about a week, Grigsby likes to give the tree a boost by either pouring Sprite into the tree stand for one day or doing a mix of 2 cups corn syrup with 1 cup dissolved sugar, before going back to regular water refilling.

Catherine Wade, a spokesperson for Green Valley Christmas Trees, which sells trees online and ships to customers all over the country from its Oregon, North Carolina and Maine tree farms, also said it’s important to keep trees away from heat vents and fireplaces.

“There’s a lot of common sense here,” she said. “It’s really important that trees don’t have any direct heat and watch the sunlight coming in from windows too.”

When a tree is picked, it’s also important to cut a half-inch to an inch from its bottom. Wade explained how when a tree is first cut it creates a moisture seal at the base. This actually helps for preservation during shipping. But once it’s bought, a fresh cut allows it to better absorb water in the tree stand. Before buying a tree, shake it to see how many needles come off. Also check for browning at the bottom of the tree, both Grigsby and Wade said.

“You definitely want to look for color consistency throughout,” Wade added. “And keep an eye out for symmetry. Sometimes if a tree was located on a hill or had a certain sun exposure it (might) grow somewhat asymmetrically.”

Faux fantastic

Fans of faux Christmas trees love them for their convenience, says Emma Pearson, a spokesperson for Tree Classics, a manufacturer of faux Christmas trees since the mid-1970s.

“Today, it’s incredible how they pop together in segments so easily, and some are literally designed on the concept of an umbrella. It makes it so easy to set them up every year,” she added.

Pearson said the majority of Tree Classics’ trees are also pre-lit, another popular trend among faux tree buyers. There is also color-changing technology where customers can change light schemes from multicolor to clear, flashing and solid colors by remote control, Pearson explained.

Faux trees also look more real than ever. Tree Classics and other manufacturers have lines that use polyethylene-injected molds for a more realistic look. Tree Classics’ brand is called Real Feel technology. Polyethylene has also helped relieve PVC allergy concerns.

“It really does offer a truer, more life-like version. It’s a natural look even with imperfections,” Pearson added.

Trees for all situations, lights

With the recession forcing families to live together and some to downsize, Pearson said Tree Classics has seen increased demand for smaller trees. American Classics offers narrow, slim or even flat-back trees.

“We actually have a whole series of trees designed for small spaces,” she added. “The flat-backs are really interesting. You can look at them from most angles and it looks like a full-size tree, but it really only takes up about half the floor space and you can’t walk around the back of it.”

Colored trees, like silver and gold, are also popular.

“A lot of people are realizing it doesn’t have to be green. You can just play with it and you don’t have to be so serious about it, especially for secondary trees,” Pearson said.

LED lights have grown in popularity and can last five times longer than traditional lights, added Pearson. But Wade says it’s important for customer’s to make sure they try them out before purchasing.

“LED’s can emit a harsher glow,” she said. “Some companies do offer ones that have more of an incandescent look. I still say look at them closely to make sure it’s really what you want. … They tend to be more popular for outdoor lights.”

After the holidays

When the holiday season ends, waste haulers often set pickup days for real trees. The Springs Preserve also has a Christmas tree recycling program. Trees are often ground up and used in mulch or compost.

“I have heard of some even using them in rivers to help to generate habitats for certain types of fish,” Wade said.

Pearson said faux trees should be stored in bags, not cardboard boxes, to keep rodents out. She recommends dusting them off with a damp cloth or using a leaf blower before storing.

She also said mint tea bags inside the storage bags will keep rodents away. And if you want to buy a new faux tree, donate the old tree to charity.

“There are a lot of families who can’t afford a new one and they’d love to have it,” she added.

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