Christmas tree farm owner provides tips and tricks to pick the perfect spruce

christmas tree

ROANOKE, Va. (WSLS 10) – Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, many people are looking ahead to Christmas, and that means looking for the right Christmas tree.

Before you can carry off the perfect Christmas tree — before you can even cut it down — you have to know what to look for.

John Hamill’s family has been in the Christmas tree business for over 40 years and owns Hamill Christmas Tree Farm, which kicked off its 2016 season on Friday. Hamill says part of the fun for some families is cutting down their own tree.

“It’s more fun for the family, and it’s less work for us. So everybody’s better off,” said Hamill.

Hamill says all trees will lose some of their needles during the time they spend as a Christmas tree, but Fraser and Canaan firs tend to lose the least. They have become the most popular over the past 10 years or so.

The Nash family tried an artificial tree just once before going all natural.

“We can pick it out, and it’s always different,” said Lily Nash.

Hamill says he loves to put smiles on the faces of people like the nationals.

“Oh it’s wonderful. Throughout the year there’s things to do in the trees, but the most fun is selling trees because you get to see happy people. You get to see the results of your work.”

The National Christmas Tree Association also has a few tips on how to pick the best tree. It suggests:

  1. Measure your space: Be sure you know what size (height and width) you need before heading to the retail lot. Measure the ceiling height in the room where the tree will be displayed. The trees in the field look small when the sky is the ceiling. Don’t overbuy. Measure the width of the area of the room where the tree will be displayed. Most trees on tree farms are trimmed to an 80 percent taper. So a tree that’s 10 feet tall will be 8 feet wide at the bottom. A tree that will fit in the room vertically may be entirely too big horizontally.
  2. Think about what type of decorations you’ll be using: Some species have more open foliage, stiffer branches or longer needles. Research the characteristics of the different species in our tree varieties section, then find a farm near you that has the species you are looking for.
  3. Learn about the different species of trees.
  4. Safety first: Go to a retail lot that is well-lit and stores trees in a shaded area.
  5. Ask questions about the trees at the lot: Ask the retailer when he/she gets the trees. Are they delivered once at the beginning of the season, or several shipments during the season? Often, a tree obtained soon after its arrival on the retail lot will be very fresh because it was cut recently. Also ask the retailer which tree type performs best in your climate. Some species last longer and remain fresh longer than others in different climates.
  6. Do a branch/needle test for freshness: Run a branch through your enclosed hand – the needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches – they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.
  7. Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration: Indicators might include excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor, needle pliability, and wrinkled bark. A good rule-of-thumb is, when in doubt about the freshness of a tree, select another one. If none of the trees on the lot look fresh, go to another lot.