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Hinged vs. Hooked
When buying an artificial tree, look for models with pre-attached, hinged branches. Trees with hooked branches require you to insert each branch into a central pole and often look less realistic.

PE vs. PVC
You should also consider the material used to make the needles. Needles made from polyethylene (PE) usually tend to be more realistic and 3-D in appearance than flatter, 2-D PVC needles. The only disadvantage is that PE trees generally can't hold the heaviest ornaments. Variation in needle texture and color will also contribute to a more realistic looking tree.

Tip Count
Also consider "tip count," which refers to the number of individual needles. In general, the higher the count, the better.

Don't forget to look at the quality of the base - avoid cheap plastic or flimsy metal stands.

Finally, if you choose a pre-lit tree, you'll have to choose between getting LED lights, which save energy but emit a harsher glow, or warmer but less energy efficient regular lights. 100 lights per foot is a good rule of thumb.

artificial christmas trees & wreaths

Balsam Hill
This Northern California store carries everything from basic trees for under $200 to a 25' Rockefeller Pine for almost $10,000. Their trees come with high-end features like hinged branches, remote-controlled lights that can switch from clear to multi-colored, electrical connection for tree-toppers, scratch-proof rubber-feet and storage bags. In a comparison test, Good Housekeeping called their 7.5' Fir the "best overall," citing the "true green color" and "natural-looking fall of the branches." The Ellen Degeneres Show used their Norway and Vermont White Spruces to decorate their set for the holidays. A sample kit featuring a branch from every tree type is available and is free if you choose to order a tree. If you choose not to order, the kit will cost you $15.

8.5 Foot, Pre Lit Artificial Christmas Tree, Frasier Fir, Clear Full
Christmas Tree For Me
Featured in USA Today, Good Morning America, MSNBC and HGTV, the realistic garlands, wreaths and trees at this store are species specific. You can choose from several options including Hyland Firs, Fraser Firs, Noble Firs and Colorado Pines. They also carry flocked, frosted, pre-lit, day-glo colored, outdoor, slim, upside-down and other hard-to-find options. Online instructional videos are available to help you select the right tree.
Free ground shipping in continental USA.

Do you remember the "must-have" black Christmas trees of 2006? Or the upside-down Christmas trees that were all the rage in 2005? Chances are, whatever this year's trend, this San Francisco retailer will be on top of it. Treetopia specializes in non-traditional trees including trees in funky colors like candy apple red, cotton candy pink and tuxedo black, Christmas palm trees and colorful tinsel trees. Features include hinged branch trees, on/off foot pedals for lights, a storage bag and an electrical connection for tree-toppers.