Shopping for the Best & Most Realistic Artificial Christmas Tree

Welcome to the 409th Metamorphosis Monday!

I’m having a tree dilemma this year. This is the tree that I normally set up in my living room.

Wrapping Present with Craft Paper and Bright Ribbon

 

And this is the tree I usually set up in my kitchen. Both trees were purchased many years ago in a Home Depot Expo during a big sale they had going on Black Friday. They have served me well for around 10 years now, but the last couple of years they have begun giving me a major headache each year.

Christmas Tree for the Kitchen

 

Last year, an area around the lower section of the tree in the living room quit working. I replaced every single fuse in that entire section, not once, but twice, and it still wouldn’t light. If you have a section of lights on your tree that’s not working, check out THIS post where I show how to find and replace a fuse, or click image below. That normally works, but sadly, not in the case of this tree.

Easy Repair for Dead Christmas Tree Lights

 

After spending around 8-10 solid hours working on the lighting problem over the span of 3-4 days, I decided it was time to donate it, so that’s what I did this past summer. I’d never been completely happy with this tree, anyway, the shape of the tree had always been a little too uniform for my liking (screams fake!) and the branches/needles didn’t look at all realistic. It was very much old-school tree technology. There are some much, much better trees out there these days.

Plaid Wrapping Paper for Christmas

 

It was a tough decision the year I abandoned having a real tree and decided to go artificial. I spent a pretty penny on these trees that made big claims of looking real in the advertisement and on the box, but definitely fell short.

Christmas Tree for the Kitchen

 

I spent several hours yesterday searching online and reading a ton of reviews. Sadly, I didn’t find a single brand where there weren’t a lot of complaints about non-working lights. One site even did a direct comparison between two leading sellers of high-end Christmas trees and neither fared very well.

The majority of the complaints centered around two issues: 1. New trees arriving with non-working lights and 2. Terrible, uncaring customer service, followed by very slow shipping of replacement trees. The anger and bitterness people feel really comes through in the reviews. That’s completely understandable when you consider what a special holiday Christmas is for so many. You want everything to be perfect when your family and friends (some you haven’t seen in years) come for a visit. Then there are all the holiday parties and entertaining. Who has time to deal with bad lights and waiting on replacement trees.

I literally spent hours yesterday checking out all the leading brands and reading reviews and complaints at various consumer sites and at the seller’s sites themselves. In all my tree shopping, I finally narrowed it down to one company and two trees.

Front Gate seems to get higher marks than anyone else for customer service, but all their 7.5 foot trees (that’s the size I need for my living room) were way too wide at 66 inches.

Balsam Hill has two trees I’m considering: The BH Balsam Fir…

balsam-hill-balsam-fir

Photo from Balsam Hill

 

…and the BH Fraser Fir. I’m having a difficult time determining which I like best, they each have slightly different features. Balsam Hill’s Balsam Fir has a lot more branches and lights, though their Fraser Fir is very dense, as well. I know from watching their videos, Balsam Hill designs their trees to look as much like the real thing as they possibly can, so I’m guessing a Balsam Fir may be more full in real life than a Fraser Fir. Anyone know?

It may come down to price in the end, the Balsam Fir is $200 more than the Fraser Fir. Anyone have experience with either one of these two trees? Do you have a Balsam Hill tree, and if so, how do you like it?

balsam-hill-frasier-fir

Photo from Balsam Hill

 

I may end up using my old kitchen tree in my living room this year, although I have it set up in there now and it looks too skinny for that room. The skinny factor works great in the kitchen, but not great in my living room.

I tell ya, this artificial tree-buying business is pretty intense because they aren’t small investments. I don’t mind paying more for a really good tree, as long as I know it will last and be trouble-free for many years.

I’ll keep you posted on my decision. If you have a Balsam Hill tree, appreciate your thoughts and experience with their trees and the Balsam Fir vs the Fraser Fir.

Looking forward to all the fabulous Before and Afters posted for this week’s Metamorphosis Monday!

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Comments

  1. I have had the same artificial tree for over 20 years. It did not come with lights, so I never have to worry about them burning out and that tree still looks fabulous. It’s honestly some no name brand that we got at an outlet on our first Christmas together. I guess it’s one of those, “they don’t make ’em like they used to” stories! We have had two in the family room in the last 10 years…icky…Good luck on the hunt!

  2. Hi Susan, I bit the bullet and ordered a Frasier Fir tree from Balsam Hill last year. We were very happy with it and put it up yesterday for the second year with no problems, only one light was broken from storing it and that was easily replaced with the bulbs and doodad/gadget included in the tree. 🙂

    • Mary, did you go with all white lights, multi (which is colored) or the color+clear, which is the tree where you have white and colored lights and can burn them separately or all together? There are so many choices! If I get one this year, I was leaning toward the Color+Clear.

  3. Susan,

    You seem to be locked into a couple particular brands……don’t limit yourself to that. Unfortunately you really should go out and look at them – everyone will always have a negative review on a product. I think Balsam Hill are lovely trees but, are way overpriced for what you are getting. I bought one from a shopping channel and absolutely love it. Check around and go with your “gut” you have good taste and you want value for your money. I think you do pretty darn well with that……. Merry Christmas whatever you decide!

    • I completely agree. I was at Lowe’s this weekend and I was impressed with what they had, specifically the GE trees. No cords to connect, just put the three sections together and viola! your tree is together and ready to turn on. If I was in the market, I’d be seriously considering something like that.

      • Just called Lowes and the GE trees are all sold out, at least the ones that have the one plug lighting system and the multi-colored lights, which is what I think I would like to get. I love that one plug lighting system that Balsam Woods and GE have. Unfortunately, I did see a bunch of reviews about the lights not working on the GE trees. The genius who invents a Christmas tree with lights that are 99% full proof is going to be a very rich man/woman! Every review you read, no matter what brand tree, the lights are always the number 1 complaint.

  4. Debra Robbins says:

    They’ve had some pretty amazing trees on QVC. Have you checked out their’s? Some have the option of being pre-strung with BOTH color and white LED lights and, with a remote control, you can choose which option you want. Some have a mind-blowing number of function options, as well.

    • Debra, that’s the same thing that Balsam Hill offers. Do you know what brand the one you saw on QVC was? I believe Balsam has been on QVC in the past. I wonder if it was a Balsam Hill tree that you saw?

      • QVC has trees from a few companies, but the one I would recommend is Bethlehem Lights. I’ve had one of their trees for 10 years and it’s only this year that the top section won’t light. I also have their battery-powered wreaths, light strands, window candles, etc. Their quality is solid and their prices reasonable. Happy Holidays!

      • Debra Robbins says:

        I’ve seen trees from several brands–Bethlehem Lights, Temp-tations, Santa’s Best and Hallmark, etc.– on their shows. They even have some on the easy-pay plan, usually, which takes some of the “sting” out! Temp-tations has one that has “convertible sizing” [customizable to different heights: 5’H with 810 tips and 350 lights, 6-1/2’H with 1118 tips and 450 lights, and 7-1/2’H with 1351 tips and 550 lights].

    • Lynn that’s what I bought. Unfortunately it doesn’t do the dishes but everything else it does. It turns every color under the sun and flashes, twinkles, fades in and out and other things I can’t even remember. Plug in the center pole and you’re good to go!

  5. Good morning, Susan… I saw where Eileen said she bought a tree from a shopping channel and was pleased. I bought ours from QVC and was pleased with the price, quality and selection. Over the years, I’ve found their customer service to be good, although I’m glad to say I haven’t really had any issues that needed their help. I have, on occasion, returned items with no problem. Best wishes with your search! Hope you enjoy every moment of this beautiful Christmas season!

  6. My artificial tree is many, many years old and does not have lights. Each branch of the tree has to be fluffed out and put on my hand so it takes a while to put it up but we never have problems with lights going out and it looks fairly real depending on how well we fluff it out. I think about replacing it but they are so expensive and this one keeps working fine for us. We just do one and have cut back considerably on the amount of decorating over the years. I do like having a tree up though.

  7. I bought a Frontgate tree 3 years ago and love it. I will regret that I spent so much on it if it doesn’t last. A friend bought one at Lowe’s last year and lives it.

  8. Susan, I haven’t invested in an expensive faux tree, but purchased a nice inexpensive one at Home Depot a couple of years ago. It is a slim line tree which fits our space. When I put up a big tree, I have to move out furniture. Will put it up this week. Hoping all the lights still work. I think this will be the trees’ third or fourth year.
    Good luck with the search and decisions.

    • Thanks, Sarah…glad I don’t have to do this very often! It’s exhausting. I got really excited looking at the GE trees online, they look so real. Unfortunately, the ones I like are all sold out. I’m sure they’ll bring them back since they’ve been so popular.

  9. Eileen Keatts says:

    Hi Susan,

    I was in the same position last Christmas. And although I love live trees, I decided to purchase a 7-1/2 ft. “Brewer” tree from Balsam Hill and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Everyone who saw it thought it was real and we just put it up yesterday for the second time and it looks perfect! I don’t think you can go wrong with any tree you select from Balsam Hill. Good luck and Merry Christmas!

  10. Wanda Bradey says:

    I have a Balsam Hill tree. I have used it for 3 years and LOVE it; my husband loves it more. Why? You just put the tree together and plug it in. No hunting cords to connect lights. He loves this part! He always did the lights for me and now it takes him a few minutes. We recently moved and I can now use a taller tree. Going to purchase another Balsam Hill tree. Good luck! Merry Christmas.

    • Thanks, Wanda…good to know! I wish I could purchase one taller than 7.5 ft but that’s all that will fit here. Would love to live in a new “old” home with 10 foot ceilings that would accommodate a 9 ft tree. 🙂

  11. We bought from Balsam Hill last year. Very nice trees. We didn’t go for the LED lights because some of those bother our eyes so we got the traditional white lights. It snaps together and works beautifully. They arrive quickly too. I wanted a slim tree so that’s how I went. We bought a nice one from Lowe’s years ago for my Mom and were pleasantly surprised at the quality.

    • Liz, if you purchase another one some day, Balsam Hill has come out with LED lights that are called “candlelight.” They look like incandescent but are LED. Today when I was talking with an employee there, she said that the old LED looked like those bluish headlights you see on cars but that their candlelight are like the lights folks used to love. She said the good thing about LED is they last a really, really long time: 20,000-50,000 hours but the bad thing is when they go, you have to replace the entire strand. She said when they start going bad, they get dimmer and dimmer until they go out.
      I’m still trying to decide which was to go…LED or the regular lighting. I can’t even decided if I want clear or multi…or both. lol Driving myself crazy with all these decisions!!!

      • Some LED lights have a slight jitter to them and bother our eyes. LED do last a long time but what a bummer if a whole strand were to go out. This year the option to have both clear or color is pretty neat. At the end of the season we take ours apart and store the three sections fully open so we don’t have to work so hard to fluff it up each year. I think compacting them back into a container is additional wear and can fatigue them a lot sooner. The have bags to cover them in one piece which I think is the ultimate!

  12. I have a tree from Balsam Hill. Absolutely love it!!! I can do it by myself. It is very full , has no odor and looks very real. You won’t be disappointed. Do have a peak at their bronze gold or pink gold set of ornaments gorgeous.
    Happy decorating…

  13. Susan, I had the same problem you did last year with your tree. I used the Light Keeper Pro on the lights and I did get one section working. One half of a string would not light no matter how hard I tried. I refused to go through that again this year so I had to bite the bullet and order a new tree. I got the seven and a half foot Fraser Fir tree from Balsam Hill. I previously had a nine foot tree but I convinced myself I needed to downsize because of the price of their nine footer. It came quickly and was packaged very nicely. I was shocked when I unwrapped the tree because the end of the branch needles are hard plastic. The inner branch needles are soft but the outer needles are hard. Needless to say I felt ill for spending that much money on a plastic looking tree. My daughter and I put it together and low and behold it looked great, very realistic and very easy to put together. I got the multi and clear lights this year because my children wanted colored lights and I wanted clear. It really looks like a real tree. Is it worth the extra cash? Not so sure right now, only time will tell. Good luck and let us know what you decide.

    • I tried that little gun thing, too…forget the brand I bought. I never could get the lights to work, even though I watched all their videos on how to use the gun.
      Thanks for sharing that Wendy, that’s the one I’m considering…the one with Clear and Multi. When you have just the clear lights lit, does it seem too sparse or does it look like there are enough lights?
      Also, did you go with LED lights or candlelight or the regular lights? So many choices!
      Yeah, I bet the hard branches are shocking when you first see them. That’s the kind of needles/branches the garland I put around my porch column has, but they look good once they are up.

      • Susan, we have been keeping all the lights on since we put it up yesterday. I didn’t think I would like the colored lights but it really is pretty with all the lights lit. It does not seem too sparse when you have just one or the other on. There are more lights on this tree than the regular trees because of the multi feature. I don’t think there is a light choice when you buy the multi, just regular. We haven’t even decorated it yet and it looks beautiful.

  14. I’m in the same dilemma, so next year I will buy a new tree. It’s last me 12 years and the branches are thinning out now and falling on the floor to much.
    Your trees look lovely though.
    Thank you for Metamorphosis today. I’m sharing my guest rooms reveal-Part 1.
    Have a great week.
    FABBY

  15. Susan, I have a artificial tree that is still going strong except for a few lights that are moody. I usually just add a string or two more and it keeps on ticking. This year we got a real tree after many years of using the faux one. The real one is short and slim for what you would expect of a real tree. We flocked it outside and it really came out well. I wasn’t sure I would like the flocked look in my living room so I thought trying it on a real one would be a good way to try it without ‘marrying it’. It sits on a table beautifully. We purchased some lights for it and I am throwing some pretties on it now. There was no big investment and I am so happy with it.

  16. Susan, I bought a tree from QVC two years ago,best tree ever! The tree comes in three sections. Each section is a plug into itself,as each section is fitted to the next,it lights up.It’s great only needing one plug in one outlet. The tree has realistic moulded plastic branch ends.

    My daughter-in-law purchased a tree from Balsam Hill– much more money and she still prefers mine .Hope this helps.

    • E.J. What brand was yours? That’s the way the Balsam Hill trees work, too. Balsam Hill bought out a company called Tree Classics, do you think it was Tree Classics? I think their trees work that way, too.

  17. Susan, I understand the tree dilemma…it continues at my house. I will look forward for your decision! Thanks for hosting!

  18. I recently read the french country blog where she put up Balsam Hill trees and loves them…but they are really pricey. I bought our living room tree at a design center, also a bit pricey, but it is nice. You won’t believe this…it came with lights and I cut them all off, a big job! I did this because it was too brightly lit and bugged me, as well as I change lights every year often putting up bubble lights. Love them from the 50’s. Our other trees are nice from various places. I would love a flocked tree, but already put up too many. I love the smell of live trees,but hate killing trees, and here in Colorado they really dry out fast. Good luck with your search.

    • Jillian
      so sorry you cut off all your lights. There is an item that you can purchase that will turn your tree on and off and bring your lights to three different levels of brightness. I have had mine for years and wouldn’t be without it. They cost around $16 and hang as an ornament on the tree, all you do is tough it. I bought mine at Target but they can be had on line as well.

  19. I just bought my first Balsam Hill tree. My style is the California Redwood.
    I also bought the flip style. It was so easy to put up. I love that it is on wheels. That was a big plus when decorating. I’ll lock the wheels once I have it all decorated. I didn’t get the LED lights because they seem too harsh.
    I only like the white lights so I didn’t get the color/white option.
    I too thought I had bought a crappy tree when I first set it up but I followed the directions and wearing the gloves they sent fluffed each branch. It looks great now. I’m still putting the decorations on it but love it now.

  20. Ugh, I feel your pain. My tree I have now is a couple years old, bought from Home Depot. It’s a bit slimmer than my prior tree, bought at Michael’s, which was still perfectly fine but I was nervous about going out after more than 10 years. I like both of mine, but don’t expect this new one to last as long. It’s not made as well as the Michael’s tree (which is currently serving as the urn filler on my porch and as my mannequin tree at the antique mall – top and middle parts, respectively, while the base part is still in my basement. I can’t let go, lol). I looked at BH trees, but every time I was ready to pull the trigger, they were out of the tree I wanted. Do keep us posted. I’ll appreciate your reviews.

  21. The Balsam Hill tree comes with a great tree storage bag. I bought the 7 1/2 ‘ Balsam Fir last year with all white lights.

  22. I bought the Brewer Spruce Tree from Balsam Hill last year so we are only in our second year of use, but I love it. It comes in three sections which go together very easily and all the lights are working great.

  23. I have the Frasier Fir from FrontGate. We purchased it in 2003 or 2004, I believe. It arrived in beautiful condition and all the lights worked on it every year until about three years ago. So that’s a good 10 years of satisfaction! It’s a very realistic looking tree, though it does require some “fluffing” to get it to look as full as the advertisement. I do recommend it, if you amortize the cost over about 10 years of use, it’s about the same price as buying a new real tree each year. We aren’t using it this year, because last year I had a devil of a time getting all the lights to work, and never did succeed. This year we’re doing a real tree in its place.

  24. Susan,
    Somewhere tucked away in your Christmas memories is a perfect tree. Order that one! Sure, Balsam Hill trees have that extra something special that make you want a second look, but decorations can help determine the tree style…natural simplicity with few decorations usually needs a gorgeous stand alone tree while mid to over the top galore doesn’t need a tree that can sing a solo, but back to my first point…order a tree from your best memory. With your skills and good karma, you’ll find it!

  25. Susan, I have been in the same predicament this year. I strung additional lights on tree this year purchased from Home Depot. This is 3 rd year and 2 sections already have lights that are out!!! I considered trashing it, but decided not to incur that extra expense right now. I have been looking at the Balsam Hill trees and I can’t bring myself to pay that much for an aritificial tree. I’ll keep looking and checking out the after Christmas sales. Good luck!!!

  26. I know how hard it is to give up a tree. We had one tree for 17 years which we bought at K-Mart believe it or not. It was 7″ tall and had branches that went all the way to the ground. You could even change the branches for a down-swept look. When the time came to discard it, I kept the upper third of the branches to use in garland on the mantle and as a base for window box decor. I still miss that tree!
    I never buy trees with lights. I would rather risk one or two strands letting me down than a whole tree’s worth. The Balsam Hill trees are beautiful aren’t they?! Whatever you choose will be beautiful, your home is always lovely.

  27. I think the choice depends on how you want to display your ornaments.
    If the tree is very full it leaves them pretty much hanging on the outer ends of the branches, which many people love. I prefer the Frasier fir because it allows me to hang ornaments in and out of the tree for more depth and visual interest. My husband also runs lights up and around the trunk of the tree which makes it glow from within, further adding depth and luminosity to the tree.

    • Yolie,
      this is exactly what I do with my trees. Add lights to the inner branches, out a bit from the trunk and use artificial garland sections to wrap around the trunk to loosely cover the wires. It makes the lights “twinkle” when you move.
      Susan,
      The other thing to keep in mind is that Frasier Firs are usually a more formal tree. We have one in the formal livingroom and a much more rugged Kurt Adler tree from Macy’s in the Family room. It looks better with the wood paneling, beamed ceiling and brick fireplace.
      We also have a narrow “pencil” tree in the upstairs hallway. It is 7 ft tall and 2 ft wide. We bought the display model at Shopko for $20 because some of the lights were out. took it home and replaced with all new and have used it 5 years now.

      Good luck and keep us posted.
      rick

  28. Becky O'Brien says:

    Susan, I got the Bethlehem Lights tree from QVC (and spread the payments and avoided the sting!) 3 parts, drops together (and I can assemble easily on my own). Remote control lights lets you select colors or white, fade in/out,
    just love it. I put mine back in the box after Christmas, never could get those darned bags to zip (by myself). Looks good, but the Balsam pictures you posted are the idyllic ones. Happy Holidays and good luck!

  29. Margaret Kuhn says:

    I was debating too about getting a faux tree. I saw a few years ago a most amazing and beautiful long needle flocked tree that was stunning. I have held back from purchasing, for two reasons. One, I would miss the smell of a fresh cut tree and second, I think the flocking might be a mess (even though reviews said very little came off).

    Balsam Hill does have the Good Housekeeping backing, but I have also heard bad things about them and they are quite expensive. I have put off going the faux tree for another year.

  30. Have you seen the light fixer gun that is being advertised, you can get it on Amazon, Target and here’s the link to Walmart
    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Ulta-Lit-Pro-Light-Keeper-Repair-Tool/22071313
    I had a couple of bad experience with artificial trees, but it was years ago. I would love to have one for the ease of it, no watering, no mess, no worries about how long it will last…but my children refuse! I can’t wait to see what you decide on and how it works out because I’m not giving up!

  31. bobbi duncan says:

    Boy, this was timely. I think I have been looking at every Xmas tree company over the past six months, so it’s great to hear what others are suggesting (aren’t blogs great that way…all of us helping out in some way). We finally narrowed it down to Balsam Hill. Now, I just have to decide if I even want pre-lit. The trees will last the 10 years most likely, but no one guarantees the lights for more than a few years, and if you’ve ever cut off all those firmly attached lights you know why I’m considering stringing the lights myself. It does take time to string them nicely, but it allows me to do clear, multi-colored traditional, multi-colored jewel tones, or even good old C-9s when I want that old-school look. I am getting new wreaths and garland that are pre-lit because they are battery -operated rather than having cords, but they aren’t as pricey as replacing a tree. Good luck with your search. Hugs!

  32. bobbi duncan says:

    Oh, almost forgot to mention this. I was told you should never refold and put your tree back in a box or bag…that’s what breaks the lights. I just cover ours with a light- weight sheet of plastic, tie it off at the bottom, and store it in a corner of the basement.

  33. Hi Susan! I purchased the Balsam Hill Fraser fir two years ago during their post holiday sale…50% off! I elected to get the unlit tree because it seemed silly to spend extra money on lights I knew would fail long before the tree did. We’ve been very happy with our purchase. I hated to give up a real tree, but the weight of my huge collection of Santa ornaments could not longer be supported by the branches. I read our extreme drought and the wildfires here in the Carolinas have impacted the tree farms this year.

  34. Three years ago we purchased a BH slim tree as well as five, 10 foot outdoor garlands with LED lights. About 3 weeks ago we went to our climate controlled storage unit to get our Christmas decorations and check everything. Unfortunately, four of the five sections of garland were 50-75% dead. We replaced fuses, used the LED light gun, etc, and basically worked for hours to try to get everything fixed. Nothing worked. BH has a great 3 year warranty on their products. We were two weeks past the warranty date.

    The people at Balsam Hill are extremely nice. We called immediately but found that person to not be very helpful, so, I found the CEO’s email on a website and sent an email. We were contacted immediately the following day. Again, they were very nice and solicitous, but they would not extend our warranty or be of any assistance, other than to offer us a $35 gift card on a new purchase. We went with this company because their products are made in the US and they have a great reputation. They had no obligation to extend their warranty, but I will not order anything from them again. The garland was over $500 and should have lasted longer than three years. My old garland from Frontgate lasted 7 years with those cheap twinkly lights.

    The slim tree is fine and easy to put up as others have noted. It does decorate beautifully because of the distribution of the branches, etc. It is very lifelike but again, quite expensive. I hope our experience with BH is the exception, rather than the rule.

  35. Cherylan Hannahs says:

    Definitely go with Balsam Hill. We downsized from a nine foot tree two years ago!!! We are getting old and my husband hated how heavy ours was. This will be our third year with our Balsam Hill tree. Super easy to get up and basically no fluffing. I would never buy a Bethlehem Light tree ever. I had a small one for the kitchen and it was not what I wanted. Had lots of light problems and was poorly made. Personally I like the two light option, we usually just use the colored, but it’s fun to have options.

    • Cherylan, did you go with LED or the regular kind…or the candlelight kind?
      When you have just the colored lights on…or just the white lights on, does the lighting look too sparse? I have a feeling I’ll end up using all the lights when I have it own because I like a lot of lights. Just wondering how you felt about how well it was lit when only the color or white lights are lit?

      • Susan, I” considering Balsam Hill, too. I will definitely go with the candlelight option LEDs. It’s a warm white. Many people who are light sensitive, such as those who get Migraines or like me have a neurological disease find the brighter, cool white to be more like fluorescent lights. They give me headaches. I would love to have the multi-color and candlelight option. If I’m going to spend that much on a tree, then I say get what you really want. Another factor between your two trees: did you notice the color difference? The Fraser is a lighter green. You might think about which color best fits in the room and shows off your ornaments best.

        • Those pictures on their website are kinda deceiving. I couldn’t get any help when I called their number because it just rings to a call center where all they can tell you is what you can already read/see on their website. So I contacted them via Facebook message and they had someone named Brittney call me, an actual employee with the company.

          She said that the two trees are about the same color of green, except the Frazier Fir has the silver on the underside. Apparently, real Frazier Firs look that way. That’s the kind of tree I used to always get when I bought a real tree each year, because they were readily available here in the Atlanta area. I think they are grown in NC. Anyway, it’s been so long since I purchased a real one, I can’t remember much about them, except that I liked how they weren’t so dense, there was actually room for the ornaments to hang.

          I think Balsam Hill tries to exactly mimic the real tree as much as they can because if you look at the stats on their website, the Balsam Hill Balsam Fir has more branches and more lights than the Frazier Fir, which is what you would expect since the Frazier Fir is less dense in real life. So yeah, I was really hung up choosing between the two. I should order the 20 piece branch sample package that Vicki mentioned that she ordered in her comment…then maybe I can decide. Scroll up to read her comment about that.

          For now, I’ve decided to make do with my skinny kitchen tree this year. I would really like to see those GE Lowe’s trees next year to see how life like they are. They are sold out now. They are soooo much less $$$. I’d be really upset if I spend the big bucks for a BH tree and the lights pooped out in 3-5 years.

          • I used to get real Frazier Firs, too. And, yes they grow in North Carolina. I like them because like you, I put ornaments on inner and outer branches. I do remember the color as not a dark green. It had a silvery aspect, just a hint. At this point, I agree, use the tree you have. I might suggest checking the after Christmas sale at Balsam Hill. I also agree buying the branch set. I know you are interested in the GE tree. So waiting to buy makes sense.
            The person who noted damage to lights comes from folding the tree back into the box, squashing it, and then refluffing year after year is on to something important. There’s a lot of metal in artificial trees and everyone knows about metal fatigue from moving metal back and forth. It breaks. We are going to put our tree sections, still fluffed out, into sturdy plastic bags to store in our attic and see what happens next year. Hopefully it will extend the life of our tree. Thank you so much for letting us share so many ideas as you continue your tree quest.

            • Thanks, Kathleen. Well, for what it’s worth, I have never squished my back down. I separate the sections and carry each one to the garage. The bigger sections collapse together on their on when I’m carrying them, but no pressure is applied. Then I reassemble the tree in the garage and cover it with one of those gigantic tree bags that folks use to dispose of the trees. I do that to keep the dust off of it. And I store it in the corner of the garage. Despite all that, I still had lights go bad on my tree.

              I saw a GE tree today in Lowe’s and I took a photo of the stats regarding number of lights, branches, etc… The 9ft tree I saw today was around $378, but it had 1/3 the lights of the same size tree at Balsam Hill and about 1/3 the branches. It was a slender (so not near as big as the 9ft BH tree I was comparing it to. I was considering it for a spot on the screened porch. Still, I have a feeling the GE’s trees in general, may not have as many branches/lights as the average BH tree, after seeing that one today. It did have a very similar lighting system (Clear + Color lights and only one cord to plug in) like the BH trees, so a lot of similarities. Of course, the price for the 9 ft Lowe’s tree was about 1/3 the price of the Balsam Hill, and it wasn’t on sale. If it were on sale, it would be probably 1/4 the cost.

  36. Vicki Wilkes says:

    I ordered the 20 piece branch sample box from Balsam Hill this summer. It was the only way I could be sure that I would love the look. Out of 20, at least 4 were real contenders! Finally decided on the Baby California Redwood, unlit. Got half-off and free shipping in July. We just set it up: it could not have been easier. Like adding my own lights: some years we go clear, some years multicolor. Plus, I now have 20 beautiful, full branches to use in my holiday decorations! See if you can wait till next summer…it was a good decision for me.

  37. Thanks so much for the party!
    Hugs,
    Debbie

  38. So many comments and so many options out there apparently! I’m from a Christmas tree growing part of the country and have hated fake trees my entire life! Also, many farmers make a living growing trees and we need all the tree growth we can get! Anyway….due to a lot of crazy issues…I finally (reluctantly, even sadly) purchased a BH tree last year, the least expensive I could find that I like and the smallest I felt I could get away with. Even while decorating I was regretting this FAKE thing….then as the season progressed I began to appreciate all the benefits and how pretty it is lit and unlit…a lot! Chatted up “fake” trees with everyone I knew who had one and Frontgate and BH owners seems to be the happiest. This year I’m so please with how my BH looks and set up, I’m happily looking at buying the next step up in “realistic needles” BH and at least a couple feet taller for next year!

    • Jane, I know exactly what you mean, I was not happy about it the first year I purchased and put up a “fake” tree. I finally broke down and did it because it was just too much getting a live tree home and out of the car and in a stand by myself. Plus, I was tired of all the needles everywhere and having to remember to keep it watered…and worrying about the hardwood flooring in case of leaks.

      I think once artificial trees are decorated, you forget about them being fake. I used to drive up to a local church that sells the trees and ask for their “trash” clippings, the stuff they cut off when selling a tree. They were happy to give it to me because it saved them from having to burn it. I would use it to decorate my mantel and it filled the whole room/house with that fragrance we love from live trees. So, that’s a great way to still enjoy the smell without all the hassles of having a live tree

  39. I am so glad to see this post and am interested in what you find out. I have been considering getting an artificial tree since my daughter and son-in-law are both allergic to pine. We had an artificial tree before moving to our current home but it was too large for the space we have in the new place so I donated it to a thrift shop before moving. We’ve enjoyed having a real tree the past two years, but I don’t want the kids to have to take allergy meds just to spend Christmas with us. The two Balsam Hill trees you mentioned are the ones I have interest in also. My concerns are similar, so the information you get is going to be very helpful to me as well.

  40. Susan, we reluctantly bought an artificial tree 10 years ago. It came from Tree Classics that I saw advertised in the Wall Street Journal. I have been very pleased with it. It is 9 feet tall slim design for our particular space. Their trees are not as expensive as BH or Frontgate. Just thought you might want to check their selections out. Only this year were some light out but I fixed them with that gun thing I purchased at Home Depot.

  41. Susan Jones says:

    I would wait until after Christmas when they are half price! That’s what I did last year at a great Christmas store in the Lilburn, GA area called MC Twinklin’s. I got a 9′ but you can also use it as a 7′ or even a 5′. It’s beautiful! Has both colored and clear lights.

  42. Susan,
    I never, never, never would have thought you to be an artificial tree girl.
    Glad it has worked for you

    • It wasn’t easy, Jean…after having a real one for so many years. But try getting a 7 foot live tree off the roof of your SUV, into a bucket of water for the night, then into the house and into a stand all by yourself, then back out of the stand, and back onto the roof of the car and to the tree lot for disposal after Christmas. I’m only 5’4″ so it was hard to do all alone, but I did it for several years before I purchased a faux tree. So much easier to pull it from the garage and into the living room…plus, no needles to vacuum up and no worries about keeping it watered and the water off the hardwood flooring in the living room. I use fresh greenery on the mantel, so I still get the wonderful scent. 🙂

  43. Susan, I have the same problems with lights working on my tree. My husband has laid down the law to get a new tree so I must shop early next year.
    I will be reading all the comments and listening out for what you decide.

  44. I finally bit the bullet last year and invested in an artificial tree. After much research (and a spreadsheet detailing the number of branches, prices, lights, heights, etc.), I finally went with a GE tree from Costco – it was ordered online (not the one they had in the store) and has the multi-color & clear lights with remote and foot pedal. We love it. I came very close to going with a Balsam Hill but in the end felt the GE one was a better value. Happy to share my spreadsheet!

  45. We bought an artificial tree two years ago, just ran to Lowes and got a Holiday Living, 9 foot pre-lit tree.

    Still looks and works fine and at 200 dollars I don’t worry about getting another one in a few years!

  46. Susan, This is such a timely post for me too. I have always decorated my homes with live trees, but last year 1 day before everyone was to arrive I came downstairs and discovered one of my trees harbored a spiders nest and hundreds of the creatures were happily exploring my family room and kitchen! Naturally, my husband was out of town, so bah humbug for me I dismantled all 4 trees and threw everything to the curb and then vacummed and cleaned like a maniac while my daughter went looking for the last artificial tree available at my local Target. It was a display model and wonky, but it did it’s job and was donated as soon as the holidays finished. So here I am now also trying to figure out this whole artificial tree business and wishing I had started back in July. Many thanks to your readers for all their feedback. I have read every comment today and made my own spreadsheet. Hopefully today I wll make my decison and get on to buying the gifts I also have been procrastinating about. sigh… is it New Year’s yet?

  47. Hi Susan,

    This is a bit off the subject, but a few years ago you posted how to find a source for something on the internet, when you only have an online image to work from. It involved some relatively simple technology – clicking on the image, but I don’t remember where you went from there. I searched your blog history in vain to find this information. Do you remember posting this? If so, can you give me a brief refresher of how to do it? Thanks so much for your informative blog.

    • Sure, the image needs to be online, it can’t be an image you have stored on your computer or something like that. You just right click on the image you find online, then choose “Search google for image” I’m not sure if you have to be using Chrome browser for that to work. That’s the browser I always use.

  48. I had the same problem. I determined to get a tree without lights. I bought a super cheap tree, but because of that, it looks real! It’s gappy, uneven, and I string the lights myself – old school style. I load it up with glass ornaments inside and out filling all the gaps. It looks magical. It’s my favorite tree in 40 years.

    • We had a really tree for many year every years. Every year had a story. One year I left money for a tree and groceries. The boys got a tree with the money and no groceries. One year my son told me that someone at work offered him a tree for free. We took it and it is the best looking tree. It is smaller and we need more room for presents and people. Looks beautiful with all the hand made and special ornaments on it.

  49. Linda Potter says:

    I’ve always wanted a Balsam Hill tree. It seems every year tho, something else comes up we need to buy…like this year a shed and garage redo for our daughter. Those will last lots longer than a tree so I’m ok with it. The other day, we bought a 9 1/2′ tree at Costco. It’s still in the box on the front porch. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we don’t have any issues with it! I liked our old tree but the lights burned out several years ago. I got so tired of stringing lights every year!

  50. If you are still experiencing lights that are not working ..the lightkeeper pro should solve the problem.. I do not know anyone that has not been able to solve their light dilemma. Have you looked at hobby lobby for a tree. Mine is so realistic. The needles are so flexible. I got mine two years ago after Christmas. Instead of the $900 suggested retail, I paid $100. It doesn’t have a fancy rolling stand and I did have to buy a storage bag, but I have not seen a better tree from any of the more well known tree sellers. Just a thought….happy holidays…I look forward to your posts.

  51. I would like to weigh in on this subject. Last year after 56 years of fresh cut trees we decided to go artificial. We shopped the net and local stores. Since I’m a touchy feely person needed to see the tree in person. The tree needed to look “real” but it also needed to be easy to handle. That’s when weight become important. Some trees looked “wonderful” but were so heavy I knew this could be a problem. The tree we purchased was from Lowe’s, it came in 3 sections, has clear lights and did have a “real” look once it was decorated. Why it even fooled our hard core cut tree son’s. Good luck on your hunt. Merry Christmas!!!!

  52. Barb Urbank says:

    Susan, I use a tree I’ve had for 29 years, from the second year I was married, and it’s been used in two homes. It’s pretty full and fat at the bottom so a couple years ago I bought one of those tall skinny trees to better fit the space in the living room. No one liked it as well so I went back to putting up the fat one. It doesn’t have lights, so you have to add your own. The skinny newer tree has lights but I added more when I used it. It comes in three parts, just plug the ends in and your done. You could still use the trees putting on your own lights if the tree ones don’t work but since they are wired onto the tree that wouldn’t look so good. Home Depot, Lowes and even Target might have decent looking trees, so you could try there.

  53. Hi Susan, I came across your blog as the Balsam Hill catalog lay open on the couch and I am stressing over the whole tree decision as you are. It is a huge investment, especially if we go with the aforementioned. The tree I have had for years is absolutely beautiful but loosing lights, dusty, and smelling like my basement. We have vaulted cielings and it is tall, full, and has the mix of materials with the p v c on the outer part of the branches. When it’s decorated my daughter calls it “the Nutcracker Tree” and I have been told the room looks like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Replacing this tree is not easy! My sister is also facing the same decision. She mentioned to me today that she has searched high and low and finally settled on a tree from Lowes. Many people have mentioned the G E trees but she chose the Holiday Living 7.5 Pre-lit Grand Fir Tree and is in love with it. Although I have been dreaming of the Balsam Hill trees and even ordered the large kit of samples last year, I decided to try a tree from the Holiday Living company but got the 9 foot Mckinny. It was the last one in the Northeast and I felt pressured to make a decision because of that so I ordered it sight unseen! So I sit here glancing at the Balsam Hill catalog wondering if I made the right decision. If I end up returning this one because I am unhappy with it, I would probably choose the California Baby Redwood. It has a beautiful rich green color and a mix of materials on the branches that give it a beautiful look. Like everyone else, I am afraid to order a tree that costs that kind of money and if it has problems in a few years that would be a lot of cash to cry over!! I got the 9 foot tree with 2 types of material on the branches, one switch lights, and some kind of system that you pull a string and the branches fall down into place?? for just under $400. on sale (normally $550). Crazy how stressful it can be just to pick out a fake Christmas Tree!! What height?, what company?, which brand?, which style, lights, led or incandescent? … After all the analyzing I had to finally just make a decision. Well, worst case scenario I have to return it and break down for a Balsam Hill but I am hoping I don’t have to. Good Luck to you and all of us! lol Merry Christmas

    • Deb, I surely know that stress well. If we only knew how well the trees would hold up, it wouldn’t be such a hard decision. I also have a fear of spending so much and having the lights fail in a few years. I’ve decided to just use my skinny tree (that I normally put up in the kitchen) in the living room for this year. I’d really really like to see some of those trees at Lowe’s next year, will have to go there early since they apparently sell out pretty quickly. I think folks decorate earlier and earlier these days. If you think about it, stop back by and leave a comment letting us all know how you like the Holiday Living Mckinney tree after it arrives. Hope it turns out to be awesome. It is amazing how stressful it is shopping for a tree, I guess because they are so expensive and we know we’ll be looking at them every Christmas for quite a few years.

      • Merry Christmas sweet Susan!
        You are a great communicator. This morning, I took time to read every comment about Indoor trees, as I, too, am in the market. Wondering if you take notes on all this info., and if you could consolidate this in a post-Christmas reminder, including these brands of trees that aren’t in stores. My job and fam keeps me so busy I really don’t have an hour to google around. I loved the lady who shared about ordering the branch sampler pack. Genius! When we undress the house after NewYear’s, it’s so nice to get it put away, right? Would be great to have this goldmine of brands, etc, in January to remind your readers: here is what we know about fake trees, buy off season and save! Love your site.

  54. Cindy Mingle says:

    Can you please post a picture of your tree in your kitchen? I have one in my kitchen with just “kitcheny” ornaments and food ornaments but I am always looking for new and different ideas.

    • Cindy, you can see it in this post: http://betweennapsontheporch.net/balsam-hill-shopping-for-the-best-most-realistic-christmas-tree/
      What I usually do (when I still had the living room tree) was I would dressed the living room tree in my glass ornaments, the kind that look like the old fashioned mercury glass ornaments.
      Then the kitchen tree was kinda the “family” tree where I displayed all the ornaments friends have given me over the years, ornaments from trips and vacations, ornaments my son made when he was little and those that I collected when he was a baby, etc… So it’s kind of a memory tree. Since I spend so much time in the kitchen, as do my friends when they come over or I have a party, I like having a full size tree in the kitchen.
      I guess I’ll be using that tree in the living room this year, not sure what ornaments I’ll put on it…the glass ones or the family ones. I need to buy a new tree next year.

  55. Gerry Batdorff says:

    I currently have a Frontgate Christmas tree I purchased three years ago in our family room and also a tree from Balsam Hill I purchased two years ago in our living room. The tree from Balsam Hill had an entire section of the lights go out after the first year. They did send us the section of the tree after we called them. More importantly the Balsam Hill tree does not hold a candle to the Frontgate tree in terms of quality and realism unlike their beautiful pictures in their catalogs. The tree from frontgate is truly stunning and “real” looking. The quality is heads above any tree we have ever had. The only reason I chose to order a tree from Balsam Hill even though I loved our Frontgate tree was that it was cheaper and since it was going to be our secondary tree I didn’t think it had to be as good. I’ve come to regret this purchase and wished I had bought the second tree from Frontgate as well.

    • That’s good to know, Gerry. Do you remember which one you purchased from Frontgate? I’ve always been so pleased with everything I’ve ever bought from them.

  56. The first artificial tree I remember was the “aluminum tinsel” one with the tricolor revolving spotlight bought by my dad in the 60’s. He loved it. No more stringing lights! Lol

    Now I just buy a real tree and string light!

  57. Do the folks at Balsam Hill know that you are a blogger with a large following? Several bloggers that I follow have received free trees from BH for blogging about the trees, and I would think they would like to have you blogging for them.

  58. Mary McCormick says:

    I had to move the week of Thanksgiving and between trying to unpack and still having to work, I haven’t been able to do as much decorating for Christmas as I would have liked. I did put up my old, not-so-attractive faux tree to make things more festive amid the boxes.
    After fixing one section that had been out for many years, another section decided not to work. As I looked at the bare tree earlier this week I decided that it was too late to decorate it, then a day or so later I decided that I really wanted to decorate the tree and since I didn’t really get the full month of Christmas I wanted, I would leave it up past Twelfth Night and extend my Christmas farther into January.
    Here’s my point, finally eh?, once the decorations were on the tree it really didn’t matter how old the tree is or how inexpensive it looks. It looks beautiful all decked out with ornaments from years past, and travels, and gifted ornaments.
    A fake tree is never going to look like a real tree, it simply can’t. Just get a tree you like that has whatever features you need; especially lights that stay lit even if one bulb goes out. Then decorate with all your favorite decorations and enjoy all of it without regard to how realistic it is or isn’t.
    Happy Christmas to all!

  59. Ahem, a little behind here. Did you post what you decided on? I’m just now going through and reading email. Yes, that far behind. I’ll do a search and see if I can find your updated post.
    Just wanted to add, we purchased our tree 21 years ago, when pre-lit trees were really new. We splurged and spent $600 on a tree. 20 years ago, that was a fortune! BUT I am just now considering retiring it to another room and replacing it. The only reason is because after 21 years of use, the needles are getting too old and starting to shed.
    I kid you not, our lights all worked. We would have an occasional outage or I would lose one after putting a plug in ornament, but, sections didn’t go out when one light did. That was highly unusual for trees of that age. And, the lights couldn’t be purchased at any store because they were unique. So, we,ordered them from the company after we ran out of the extras they sent. The tree is 8ft and has 1500 lights! I can’t find ANY trees with that many lights!
    It’s a Bethleham Tree and when it’s replaced this year, I’ll be looking for that brand again. I’m just afraid the old cliche saying will hold true.
    “They don’t make them like they used to”

    • I think I saw that name at their site, they may still make a Bethlehem Tree. Amazing how long it has lasted! I ended up just using the tree I normally use in the kitchen. You can see it in this post: http://betweennapsontheporch.net/twas-the-night-before-christmas-a-visit-from-st-nicholas/
      It’s a bit small but I just couldn’t decide which tree I wanted. I’ve heard they have a sale in July “Christmas in July” so you may want to watch for that. I don’t know if I’ll just keep using the one that I used this year or splurge and buy another one. Even though you paid what was a large sum 20 years ago (still a big sum to me now) sounds like you totally got your money’s worth!

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