This is Christmas Tree Weekend in Chicago – Gethsemane  – get ready!  (Search for Chicago Christmas Trees on Yelp) Thus, it’s timely for me to write about how to choose and care for your Christmas Tree this holiday season.

First – I’m NOT an expert. We gave up on LIVE trees 4 years ago (which at 28 I SWORE I would never do). But,  as I spent year after year stringing lights by myself, getting prickles from the needles and sap, and then worrying about potential fires every time I left the room, we gave in and purchased 2 Frontgate trees during an after-season sale.

While Thomas was home for Thanksgiving, I had the boys bring in the TWO trees from the garage (yes, when there’s a sale, my husband, Tom, takes full advantage!) and put one in each of our two front windows. Alas, after pulling down the custom canvas covers (about the cost of the trees themselves!), I plugged them in and discovered the perennial decorating dilemma — non-functioning lights. If you string your own lights, it’s less of an issue- just don’t use strings that are broken. If, however, your tree is pre-strung, and the lights are non-functioning…  that’s trouble!

So, as I begin to write about FRESH trees, I’m working up a head of steam to find the broken lights on my tree. I’ll be searching for Fir candles to fill in for the lack of fresh pine smells, and the Christmas tree skirt that Tom sewed (yes, my husband!) will hide the canvas cover and fake base.

Stay tuned – I’ll post photos as soon as we muddle through.


Choosing your Christmas Tree


If choosing a balsam fir, gently bend a needle between your thumb and forefinger. If the tree is fresh, the needle will break.

If choosing a pine tree, the needle should not break if the tree is fresh

For any species, if the tree is fresh, the needles will stay on the branch and not fall off if you touch them.

Caring for Your Tree


I searched all over the internet for the best sources, but I like the article I found in Bottom Line’s Best Ever Kitchen Secrets.

The Dept of Risk Management and Safety at University of Arizona strongly recommends that cut trees should be treated with flame-retardant solutions (either sprayed or dipped).

Recipe for Christmas Tree Flame Retardant

(Keep away from kids/pets, as it’s harmful when ingested – store with poinsettias!)

  • 9 oz of borax powder
  • 4 oz of boric acid,
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of low-sudsing laundry detergent

Water –  Water – Water  your Christmas Tree!

  • First, make it hot water – 80 degrees. It opens the tree up to accept more water
  • Afterwards, use lukewarm water daily.
  • The average tree will consume up to 1 gallon of water per day.
  • Give the tree a pick-me-up by adding 1 oz of maple syrup to the water. The sugar feeds the tree and makes the pine needles more vibrant.

Another Great Source of Information is the University of Illinois Extension.

They recommend buying your tree from a farm:

Remember that trees sold on retail lots in urban areas may have come from out of state and may have been exposed to drying winds in transit. They may have been cut weeks earlier.Buy trees early before the best trees have been sold and where trees are shaded.Ask the retailer whether his trees are delivered once at the beginning of the season or are they delivered at different times during the selling season. (Select this link to read all their advice on choosing trees)

Recycling Your Christmas Tree and Greenery

It’s so easy to recycle your tree – I heartily recommend you consider taking it to one of the many Chicago locations after the new year. I didn’t find this year’s list of locations, but I’ve included last year’s choices – the city has done this for 23 years, so I expect it will be similar to last year. The trees are chipped, and you can pick up some of this mulch for your garden if you’d like.

Here are the top  locations that my clients use for recycling their Christmas Trees:

Clark Park3400 N. Rockwell Ave.
Grant Park900 S. Columbus Dr.
Humboldt Park Boathouse1369 N. Sacramento Blvd.
Jackson Park6300 S. Cornell Ave.
Lincoln ParkCannon Dr. at Fullerton Ave
Margate Park4921 N. Marine Dr.
North Park Village5801 N. Pulaski Rd.
Norwood Park5801 N. Natoma Ave.
Portage Park4100 N. Long Ave.
Warren Park6601 N. Western Ave.

Other links and resources about Christmas Trees:


Have a great weekend choosing and decorating your Christmas Tree!

Please “LIKE” my Facebook Page for a chance to win the Best Christmas Decorations in Chicagoland book, and please post your holiday decorations on my Facebook page!

Forget the 60 degree weather this weekend — it’s time to get in the spirit! (or enjoy some!)

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