Cost and realism go hand in hand. Using molds often taken from actual branches, artificial-tree manufacturers shape polyethylene, or PE, to produce highly realistic branch tips. More tips generally make the tree look fuller, with fewer gaps, and more tips cost more money. Similarly, a higher percentage of polyethylene in a tree’s construction generally equates to greater realism—and a higher price. Our pick, for reference, has 1,867 tips and is 37 percent polyethylene, and is convincingly lifelike even up close. You can get trees with far more eye-popping stats, though. This particularly lovely Balsam Fir from Balsam Hill’s most-realistic line of trees, for example, has almost 6,000 tips and is 70 percent polyethylene—and comes at a price to match that extravagance. As with real trees, overall bigger sizes come with bigger costs: House of Holiday, for example, carries more than two dozen trees measuring 12 feet or taller with price tags north of $1,000.
Each year, 33 to 36 million Christmas trees are produced in America, and 50 to 60 million are produced in Europe. In 1998, there were about 15,000 growers in America (a third of them "choose and cut" farms). In that same year, it was estimated that Americans spent $1.5 billion on Christmas trees. By 2016 that had climbed to $2.04 billion for natural trees and a further $1.86 billion for artificial trees. In Europe, 75 million trees worth €2.4 billion ($3.2 billion) are harvested annually.
It comes in a triangular-shaped box, and it is folded up. The tree is folded, I mean. It is sort of like paper-mache around wire. The "pine needles" are plastic, and can fall off. The ornament is wrapped up in the blanket. It was difficult to shape the tree into what it is supposed to look like, but I guess I didn't do too bad. I think the original tree doesn't have as many branches actually. The stand is horrible. The tree has a screw on the end you're supposed to screw into the base. It stuck through one piece of wood, and the other piece is too large, so it slips right out and since it is top heavy, can fall right over. So, I actually have a ruler sitting underneath the side of the base to keep it standing.
Wirecutter senior editor Erica Ogg’s parents, Steve and Debi Ogg, tested the Krinner for a year and they reported that it was “probably the best Christmas tree stand we’ve owned.” Steve was especially impressed with the easy setup, saying, “I’ve never been able to set up a Christmas tree by myself. I’ve always had to have someone else hold it up, while I’m down there [trying to screw in bolts].” With the Krinner, “I could hold it in and use the foot ratchet thing, didn’t need anyone else.”
After a lifetime of owning live trees, we found the National Tree model to be far more manageable to set up—no messy needles dropping, obviously, and it was also easier to assemble in its separate sections versus hoisting a 7-foot fir into position. Not having to water it or worry about its health is also a relief. The one missing element was that fresh piney scent filling the house (for the first few days at least), so we picked up a “balsam and fir” scented candle—problem solved, and highly recommended.
Once you’ve purchased and assembled your artificial tree, you must fluff it. “Fluffing” is an (admittedly adorable) term for arranging all of the branches on the tree. It may seem like an imposing prospect but, in reality, it just requires a few simple steps repeated over and over again. This is a good time to bribe friends and family members to help you. We think a couple of hours of fluffing in return for some homemade hot chocolate is a good offer.
Here’s the basic fact: You can find plenty of great artificial trees these days. They come in dozens of “species” (assorted firs, spruces, redwoods, and pines); multiple heights and girths; multiple levels of realism (and many colors never seen in nature); versions that are bare-branched, or frosted or flocked with fake snow; and pre-lit and unlit variants with LED or incandescent options.
In addition to different materials and levels of realism, Balsam Hill offers four Signature artificial Christmas tree collections, including Aspen Christmas Signature, Vermont Signature, Napa Christmas Signature, and Smoky Mountain Christmas Signature. All 12 foot and under Christmas trees in these collections even come with our 3-year limited warranty. So, you can rest assured that your Balsam Hill artificial Christmas tree will look flawless all season long, and for years to come!