NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - If you want an attractive but easy-to-decorate Christmas tree, you're in luck this year.
The newest styles in faux Christmas trees are called "porch" and "foyer" trees but they can be used anywhere indoors or in a covered space outdoors.
These new trees stand anywhere from 2 to more than 7 feet tall - some are slim, some are full - making them suitable for small spaces in homes, condos, town homes and apartments.
"With the pre-lighted styles and smaller choices 'planted' in pots, decorating has become a quick and easy no-brainer, saving the homeowner time and personal energy," says Pat Overton, head of marketing for McDonald Garden Center, which specializes in high-end, decorator-style Christmas trees - in southeastern Virginia.
But, you'll find porch and foyer trees anywhere artificial trees are sold.
If you're looking for a faux Christmas tree of any size and style, consider these tips from Overton and Bill Quinn, owner of www.ChristmasTreeForMe.com, which specializes in trees and garlands of all sizes, shapes and colors.
Size does matter. Avoid getting a too-big tree that overpowers your room. Before shopping for a tree, use masking or painter's tape to mark the wall and floor where the tree will be placed; this helps visualize how much space the tree will consume.
Choose a good frame and stand. A good quality tree will last 10 or more years so a sturdy steel frame construction is important. A stand that's metal and features longer legs is more secure. Plastic tree stands tend to snap over time.
Lots of lights are good. Lights make a tree sparkle, but make sure they are guaranteed for at least three years or 3,000 hours. A tree with 80-100 lights per foot is considered good. Look for pre-lit trees where wiring does not show and overall lighting is balanced, not spotty.
Lights should be designed to allow bulbs to burn out without causing the entire string to go out. The newest "stay-lit" strings are even better because they feature a microchip in the circuit, meaning the string stays lit even if a bulb breaks or is pulled out.
Also, twist-proof sockets prevent bulbs from rotating in the socket and shutting the entire light string off. And, consider using energy-efficient LED lights.
Greenery should look real. Branches that can be shaped and fluffed with tips that feel secure are ideal. Quality tree branches, not quantity, make a tree look like it's been cut from a tree farm, says Quinn. If you opt for the "snow" look on a tree, know the differences in how that appearance is achieved.
"Frost" is a white paint sprayed onto the branches; it sticks well and does not fade or discolor at any noticeable rate. "Flocked" is sprayed-on "white, mushy stuff" that more closely resembles snow, says Quinn. "The challenge with flock is that all flock turns yellow. The yellow rate is increased if the tree is exposed to heat, moisture, dust or bugs."
Store your tree properly. Use a special Christmas tree bag - or box, if you disassemble it annually - to keep your tree looking new and clean.
Keep the tree in temperatures that range from 40 to 90 degrees and where the humidity is as low as possible. And, protect it from animals - birds, mice and rats love to live in artificial Christmas trees, says Quinn.