how to have an awful experience with a real christmas tree

How To Have An AWESOME Experience with a Real Christmas Tree

We are real Christmas tree people.

Upon moving to Colorado early in our marriage, we were shocked to find that people would live surrounded by towering Ponderosa pines and other coniferous trees but think that having a fake tree for Christmas is acceptable.

(I am not opinionated about this at all.)

With the exception of one tree that I will definitely share with you in a minute, we have had awesome real Christmas trees for the past seven years and I am here to tell you how to have an awesome experience yourself.

Most people have three problems with real trees:

  • The trees are a mess and drop needles everywhere.
  • Residents in the home are allergic.
  • Christmas tree stands are a pain to set up.

I can solve these problems for you.  (Well, except for the allergy part, but I do have a few comments on it.)

Christmas trees can absolutely be a gigantic mess, but they don’t have to be.  We have discovered that if you cut down your own tree or purchase a local tree that is relatively freshly cut (like 1-2 weeks, not 1-2 months), they can last quite a long time (up to two months) without dropping any more needles than your fake tree will.

The key is to get a tree that is suited for your climate.  Look, Colorado is a semi-arid area and there is just not enough moisture in the air to keep an East Coast tree fresh, especially when it was cut months ago and spray painted green so you wouldn’t realize it’s already 3/4 dead.

how to have an awful experience with a real christmas tree

We proved this last year when I wanted to save money and convinced Jeremy to buy a beautiful East Coast tree from Whole Foods.  It was $50 and it was absolutely lovely…

East Coast Christmas Tree1

Pretty – for two weeks.

Well, it was lovely for two weeks, after which it dried out and turned brown and shed needles everywhere.  That was the worst Christmas tree we have ever had and we will never buy a tree at a store again.

The trees we have purchased at a local tree farm or a local nursery have been joyous experiences – truly.

another Scotch pine Christmas tree

Scotch Pine from Merry Christmas Tree Farm (no longer open) – 2009

There was the tree that still had a ton of pinecones on it.  Listening to the pinecones “pop” as they dry out is awesome.  There was the one that was sprouting new growth by the time January came around.  All of the local ones have drank a lot of water for the first few days, and then we’ve only had to add water once a week, if that.  And they drop very few needles and leak some sap, but not much.

White Fir from Harding Nursery - 2011

White Fir from Harding Nursery – 2011

The pines that are grown in Colorado are not as shapely as the ones grown in the east, I’ll admit, but we like their whimsicalness.  The one we got from Harding Nursery in 2011 (above) was still somewhat quirky but just beautiful.  You can get a better-shaped one if you are willing to not have the biggest Christmas tree among your group friends (Jeremy isn’t).

As far as the allergy issue, well, as much as I’d like to say “it’s worth it”, I won’t. ;).  If it’s smell of the tree that triggers allergic reactions, you should know that the Scotch pine and white fir trees we’ve had over the years haven’t smelled at all.

There’s also an issue of mold collecting on trees, and allergic reactions to that once it’s inside your house.  I’m certainly not going to tell you to ignore that if it’s an issue for you, but keep in mind that the dust on your ornaments and artificial trees could be just as irritating.  While there is plenty of information about mold on Christmas trees, I couldn’t find any information that compared mold spores on truly fresh-cut Christmas trees in a dry climate versus long-cut Christmas trees in a humid environment, and I would be curious to know if that makes a difference, because it seems like it could.  Just something to think about in regards to allergies, though I can’t say whether or not I would be willing to take a chance myself if I thought myself allergic to real trees.

And finally, most Christmas tree stands are a pain to set up.  After having experience wrestling with his parents’ tree stands a couple of times (they don’t get a real one anymore, haha!), Jeremy knew he had to find something other than the dumb plastic ones so the first year we got a real tree, we bought Grinnen’s Last Stand and love love love this thing.  Like I said, Jeremy likes the big trees and we’ve had ones up to 14 feet with this stand and they have never been anything but sturdy.

I’m convinced that unless you are the grinch, you can have a great experience with a real Christmas tree if you get a truly fresh-cut one that’s suited for our dry climate.  The experience of going to a nursery or tree farm with you family is so much fun and your kids will think it’s awesome to drive home with a tree on top of your car.  (Especially if you get a really big one – it makes Mom nervous, Dad proud, and the kids so excited.)

As far as where to get one, we had fun getting on at the Merry Christmas Tree Farm for several years, but as of a couple of years ago, they hadn’t planted any new trees in years and what’s left is pretty picked over (frankly, our last experience there wasn’t a lot of fun because the trees were so unshapely, and you can see from my pictures above that we don’t have to have a perfect tree).   We are planning on getting a tree from Harding Nursery again.  They have ones that are grown in southern Colorado and that’s the tree that we had in 2011 and loved.  (They also have some that are imported so be sure to get the Colorado type!)

You can also cut down a tree in select areas of select national forests, and they are cheap – just ten bucks!  Keep in mind that these trees are sparse, but again, whimsical can be fun, and it’s sure to be a fun family memory!



  1. We got our Christmas tree from Lowe’s last year and it lasted the whole season. I can’t recall what kind it was, though. We made sure to keep it watered and it did just fine!

    We used to have a fake tree until I couldn’t take it anymore. We are STILL finding parts of that tree in our house and it’s been at least three years since we had it up!

    • Cool – that’s good to know that Lowe’s had good trees! Wonder what the secret is? :)

      I’m laughing at your fake tree mess comment. I just shake my head when people say that real trees are a mess. I just don’t see that they are that big of a deal when the fake trees drop needles and you have to restring the lights almost every year anyway (at least on the pre-lit ones).

      • I really think it’s because my husband kept that thing watered like crazy. Every night he’d come home from work and check on it first thing, bypassing me and the cats. :)

        Fake trees ARE just as much work as a real one. All the fluffing!

  2. I’m considering a real Christmas tree this year for the first time in my adult life!! But, I have no clue what kind of expense I’m looking at. How much do they cost these days?

    • I think Harding Nursery’s prices for the Colorado white fir are $10/foot. The ones at Merry Christmas Tree Farm are CHEAP – $30 (but I already said why we are paying a lot more to get it from a nursery).

  3. How about some Denver area nurseries? We are new to Colorado and would love suggestions.

  4. We have had good experiences with Heidrich’s tree farm nursery (near Woodmen and Black Forest Road)

    They have some great wreaths as well as several types of real trees, cocoa, tree stands, and are very helpful getting it all on the car.

    Coming from the midwest, it was very disappointing to not be able to find a cut-your-own with the “perfect” trees we were used to. These freshly pre-cut trees saved our Christmases!

  5. Also, you can recycle your tree for $5 in Colorado Springs. The fee supports the recycling program and community sports programs. Trees are chipped into mulch and is free to the public at the drop off sites

  6. We had a real tree last year and were disappointed by the complete lack of scent. It was fresh – we cut it – but it didn’t give off any evergreen scent at all. It was a douglas fir. My daughter has requested that we go back to the artificial tree, and I think that’s what we’ll do. The season isn’t really about the tree for me, so if that’s what she likes, it’s fine with me, I guess.

    • Yeah, we’ve never had a tree with good scent – I wonder if that’s a thing of the past, because even the tree we got at Whole Foods didn’t smell. I’m not a fan of artificial smells, either, so I can’t light a candle to compensate.

  7. We moved from the Midwest and recycling Xmas trees meant putting them out on frozen ponds or lakes. The tree made a place for birds to rest/hide and when the ice melts, does the same for the fish. The idea of having to pay someone to recycle my tree ….

  8. We are cutting down a mini blue spruce that has overgrown its spot in our front yard this year.
    First real tree ever!
    Someone mentioned to us something about putting sugar it the water. Has anyone ever tried that? Is it necessary?
    Also, here in Highlands Ranch, they recycle the trees for free. They turn them into mulch and the mulch is free too (although usually sparkles from tinsel).

  9. I wish we could do a real tree. After spending years trying to find a tree that wouldn’t cause my throat to close up and eyes to itch (even if it didn’t really have a scent), and wearing elbow length gloves while decorating to avoid awful rashes, I’ve just resigned myself (sadly) to the fake tree. We do get a real wreath for our door every year and I just hold my breath when I go to the front door but its worth it! :)

  10. We went to Harding nursery and got a Colorado native tree. It was the best decision we made! We took it down yesterday and even though it was still drinking water! It was definitely an awesome experience for us after having out last couple of trees dying 2 weeks after we bought them! We will most definitely be doing that again! Thank you for the tip! We are grateful!

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