KENNEDY - In some ways, Christmas trees are like people. Each one is a little bit different from the next.
Nearly 350 million Christmas trees are growing in the U.S. today, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. That's more than the nation's population.
Some trees stay in better shape than others with little or no maintenance. Some need constant attention or bad things will happen.
Dave and Danielle Gustafson of Falconer brought their daughter Emma to Abers Acres in search of a tree recently. The family selected a Fraser fir and planned to set it up the same night.
P-J?photos by Scott Shelters
Sure, your tree won't move around your living room - unless you don't set it up properly - but there's no doubt that it could give you a big headache this holiday season.
Just like with your significant other, if you don't know how to treat your tree, it will turn on you, shedding needles of hate on your living room carpet.
Thankfully for you, selecting the right tree shouldn't be too difficult as long as you know yourself well.
HOW TO CHOOSE
If deciding against an artificial tree, consumers will need to decide whether they want to purchase a pre-cut tree or trudge through the wilderness to cut down their own.
Sue Abers, owner of Abers Acres on Route 394 in Kennedy, has sold Christmas trees for more than 25 years. She thinks people who choose to cut their own tree like having a more involved experience. They have a larger pool to choose from and get a little exercise in the process.
"We'll tell people that they can drive right to the corner of the field and get the tree, but there are families that want to park their car at the lot and drag their tree down," she said.
If there's snow on the ground, the Aberses equip customers with a sled to drag a tree back from the cut-your-own field. For their extra effort, those who choose to hack down their own fir or spruce save a few bucks and enjoy some family fun along the way.
Whether you choose to chop down your own or investigate what's left on a tree lot, it's a good idea to think about size and needle life before making a purchase.
It's best to not let greedy eyeballs get the best of you on the lot. "A lot of times a customer will start looking at a 9- or 10-foot tree when they really need a 7-foot tree. Trees look smaller outside than when they're in the house," Abers said. In order to make sure customers go home with a correctly sized tree, she uses a measuring stick.
Trees that stand too tall inside can be chopped down to proper heights. However, they may not look quite right anymore, Abers said. "I think the fatter the tree, the harder it is to take off a foot or two because then they're just going to end up looking like a butter ball. If you have a tall, skinny tree, a lot of times you can take off a foot and it will still be a nice-looking tree when you're done."
Width also matters. Abers advises consumers to know their tree stands, making sure they'll fit their Christmas trees in without too much added hassle.
Consumers may wish to keep in mind that some great-looking trees will turn ugly fast without proper treatment. According to Abers, her Fraser, concolor, Douglas and Balsam firs hang onto their needles better than her Norway and blue spruces.
"The spruce trees are the ones that you have to be much more careful with, keeping them watered," she said. "With the fir trees, we tell people to keep them watered to keep them fresh-looking, but realistically they're more forgiving. If you forget to water them and they have a dry night or two, they're probably not going to drop their needles."
As a result, Abers believes a busier, more forgetful person would most likely prefer a fir tree over a spruce. Those opting for firs will pay a little bit more, but they won't poke themselves on sharp spruce tree needles. People with lots of ornaments to hang will enjoy the tiered structure of fir trees, but will miss out on stiff spruce branches. Spruces tend to struggle in warm homes because they dry up quickly, Abers said.
With that in mind, the closer it gets to Christmas, the less likely a spruce's needles will fall before the holidays end. "Don't let the water reservoir go dry, and your tree should last for months," Abers said. "We tell customers the best thing to do is to make a fresh cut on the tree before you bring it in the house, and then keep it watered." She advises customers to take a good look at a tree's needles, but says it's a rare occurrence for a properly watered tree to lose them early.
Christmas tree owners should hydrate them with lukewarm water and shouldn't add anything to it, such as aspirin or sugar, Abers said.
WHEN TO BUY
The Christmas tree shopping season is about half-over. Abers Acres always opens its lot on Black Friday, and some people will sneak over to buy trees even before then. Some, however, wait much longer.
"Sometimes people, as crazy as life is now, they want to put their tree up on Thanksgiving night just to have it done," Abers said. "We'll sell Christmas trees right up through Christmas Eve."
By Christmas Eve, many lots will only offer cut-your-own trees because their stocks have been picked over. Most people will have purchased their trees by then, but some wait to decorate theirs until the night before Christmas.
A couple years back, the Aberses sold a tree in January. A family waited on their Christmas season until their son returned home from the military. "They went up there and cut their own," Abers said. "Even if someone called me in January, they could get a tree. They could cut one down in the middle of summer if they really wanted to."
Some set up trees early, and some wait until the last minute and then some, but the vast majority of consumers will purchase Christmas trees sometime between Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 18, Abers believes.
Whenever they come, she is always happy to see them. "I enjoy getting to see my customers. That's how we kind of started this thing," she said. "It's our last chance to see our customers and say thank you for doing business with us all year."