How to find the best Christmas tree: Needles that snap like a carrot, for starters

Check out the needles and overall look of a tree before purchasing.
Check out the needles and overall look of a tree before purchasing. Staff file

Is it too early to talk trees — Christmas trees, specifically?

At the very least, it’s not too early to start budgeting for this year’s purchase.

Oregon State University notes in a recent email that higher prices can be expected this year for live trees.

“The industry has emerged from a period of overproduction and low prices and lost around a third of the growers,” the university said. As a result, “prices have rebounded.”

To that end, we asked Chal Landgren, Christmas tree specialist and professor with the university’s Extension Service what consumers should look for to get the best tree for their money.

When choosing, he said, you want needles “that snap like a fresh carrot.”

Speaking of choosing, how soon is too soon to buy?

“In our cool wet winters, a tree outside in cool conditions can maintain ‘freshness’ for months,” Landgren wrote via email. “So, you can get the tree anytime, just keep it in water (bucket) outside.

“The clock on perishability starts when the tree is inside the home.”

Pro tip for when the clock starts ticking: Keep your tree room cooler than perhaps the rest of the house.

“The time in the home depends on how warm the house is and how close to the heater the tree might be placed,” Landgren said. “As a general rule, three weeks for a Douglas fir and five weeks for a noble, Nordmann or Turkish fir, inside with a well-watered stand.”

His other buyer’s tips:

▪ When you get the tree home, trim a small slice off the base — a quarter of an inch is plenty — and place the tree in a bucket of water in a cool place outside until you’re ready to put it indoors.

▪ Keep the tree well-watered. Water absorption will be especially intense the first five days, but will decline with time.

▪ A noble, Nordmann or Turkish fir will stay fresh longer than a Douglas fir when inside a home.

▪ Don’t worry about additives to the water to keep the tree healthy.

“Clean, cold water is all that is needed,” Landgren said. “Some additives actually caused the tree to shed needles or dry out more rapidly.”

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell