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Stay Practical, Sentimental When Selecting a Christmas Tree

Published: Monday, December 12, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 16:12

Christmas Tree

Ryan A. Ruiz

Stephen Romaniello (left) and wife Helen Evans, both of Tempe, search for the perfect Christmas tree at the Mast-Roth Farm tree lot in Tempe.

Forget holly, poinsettias, wreaths and mistletoe. Christmas is all about the tree. It holds our favorite ornaments, lights up our homes and hoards our presents.

There are about 30 million real Christmas trees sold in the US every year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

How does one go about finding perfect one? Well that just depends on what you're looking for.

The southeast corner of Broadway and Rural roads in Tempe is currently covered in green. Danny and Diane Brandner of Medford, Wisconsin have driven 1,900 miles down to Arizona for the past two years to sell Mast-Roth Farm Christmas trees. This year, they parked their RV (with a giant Packers flag on the back) in Tempe and got to work.

The Brandners sell trees cut fresh from Wilmot Valley, Oregon, and receive new shipments throughout the week.

The trees, priced by height and type, range from tiny tree-tops to 30-foot beasts. Different styles of trees have unique qualities that appeal to customer's diverse interests.

For example, if one wants to go for the most fragrant type of tree, Grand Firs are the best choice.

"If you take [pine] needles and rub them between your fingers, the smell, that's Christmas," Diane said.

The Brandner's best-sellers are the Douglas Firs, the "original" Christmas tree, which have been popular since the '20s. They're also the cheapest trees on the lot, because they're the easiest to grow.

The Nordman Fir is a new tree on the market. It is known for needles that aren't as sharp and don't drop as easily.

The Noble Fir is on the pricier end because it takes longer to grow, and it is a favorite among Oregon natives because it is what they grew up with, Diane said. The Noble Fir also has gaps between limbs that are ideal for ornaments.

It is important to consider price, size and freshness carefully when picking a Christmas tree. Diane said to pay attention to the bowl to make sure that they've been watered.

Real trees do, however, require some maintenance. They most certainly need a fair amount of water if you want them to survive the entire holiday. Danny said the larger trees are capable of sucking up a gallon of water a day.

"They can last into January as long as you keep watering them, keep them out of the sun and away from heaters," he said.

Tree needles will fall, so you'll have to clean up the area. If the upkeep seems like too much work for you to handle, a fake tree might be more appropriate. They come in a variety of colors and some are even pre-lit.

If decorating is too time consuming, there is also the classic Charlie Brown tree, which is the epitome of low-maintenance. 

As for the Mast-Roth farm trees, the smallest ones start from around $25, while the larger trees can cost upwards of $200.

Measuring the space set aside for the tree is key, especially if a topper is something your family adds to finish. Before you take a tree home, make sure the stump is not sealed with tree sap and that you trim any imperfections.

Danny unwraps the trees when they're delivered, makes sure they're watered, and uses a power saw to get a fresh cut in order to make sure they absorb as much water as possible when they arrive at their new home.

They can either be placed in the back of a truck or tried to the roof of a car.

Going out and buying a Christmas tree is an American tradition that is unique to every family. Diane said she sees a lot of new couples picking out their first tree, as well as families with small children.

"Some kids run around like they're in the woods," Danny said.

Pick the tree that speaks to you. Diane said she has seen some people find their tree the second they arrive while others have to spend the entire day meticulously measuring and weighing their options.

"Some people wander through and smell them, then leave," she said.

The Brandners opened shop the day after Thanksgiving and they have already had plenty of sales. Diane said their busiest time is two weeks before Christmas and they will close on Christmas Eve. Don't delay if you don't have to. Last year they only had one tree left.

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