Choosing your tree
Top-quality and top-priced trees are straight, dense and look good all the way around, i.e., have four good “faces,” the result of regular shearing. Know how tall and wide a tree you can accommodate (including the topper), and take your tape measure.
Freshness is key to a long-lasting tree. Check by grasping a branch and pulling it toward you; only a few needles should come off. Or bend a needle tip toward the stem; it should bend, not snap. Or bang the tree on the ground a couple of times; it should lose only a few needles.
Buy your tree two weeks before Christmas for the best selection. Transport it in a tree bag and keep it outdoors out of wind and rain until ready to decorate.
Setting up your tree
Cut one to two centimetres off the bottom of the trunk and get the tree into the stand within four hours or the cut will seal, preventing water uptake.
Keep the tree bag spread out under the stand for easy removal after Christmas.
Make sure your tree stand holds at least four litres of water. Use warm water for the first fill.
Position the tree away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
Caring for your tree
Top up the reservoir twice daily; never let it go empty. A tree can draw up several litres of water a day, and a dry tree is a goner very quickly.
Forget about adding aspirin, bleach or sugar. Plain water is best.
Keep the room as cool as you comfortably can.
Dispatching your tree
Once the needles start to drop after the holidays, pull up the tree bag and haul the tree outside. Many municipalities will pick up trees for recycling. Or you can use the branches as a dry mulch to protect plants outdoors.
Main image: istock/druvo