If you're putting up a Christmas tree, there's really only question: real or fake?
Once you've decided that -- and for most of us, it's really not a decision, we're pretty much Team Real or Team Fake from birth -- then the game is on. For fans of the artificial, you either haul your tree out of the storage locker or track one down in a store. Maybe even scout one out used on eBay.
For those who celebrate au naturel, there's many more options: Live tree in a big pot, to be recycled after Christmas? Trek out to a farm and cut your own? Or find the perfect evergreen, already trucked in to a corner lot?
No matter what you've decided, we've got the skinny on how to find tree of your dreams.
The green options:
A live tree with its roots intact, bought or rented from a local grower, is the way to go here. You can plant it in your yard, or gift it to house-proud friends, once the holiday's over. Or find another eco-friendly option from our classic list:
1) Ever Grow Live Tree Rentals. Trees are living things … until we chop them down, drag them in to the house and cover them with tinsel. Not so at Ever Grow. This nifty little business provides an eco-conscious solution. Not only will they rent you a live tree already planted in a pot for you to nurture and enjoy over Christmas, they'll also deliver it to your door and pick it up afterwards. Then they replant it, ready for next year. Ever Grow is based in Burnaby and serves the Vancouver area.
2) Purchase a potted pine. The BC Christmas Tree Council has a massive list of Christmas tree farms in B.C., and some of them offer live, bagged trees too. Once the decorations are done and the presents unwrapped, all that remains is for you transfer your trusty tree to your own backyard ready for next year. The ultimate full-circle in recycling.
3) Turn tradition on its head and make your own. Create your own Christmas "canstruction" from tins of yummy food creatively piled on top of one another in the shape of a tree. You're transforming the word "artificial" from something ecologically distasteful to something really tasty, without sacrificing environmental ethics. Go one step further and be the first on your block to throw a canstruction party. Invite friends round with their own tins of food and create your tree together. By donating the food to a charity such as the Foodbank afterwards, you’re ticking all the ethical boxes.
4) Net yourself a Norfolk Island Pine. Visit many a garden centre this winter and you’ll notice these coniferous gems being marketed as alternatives to pre-cut Christmas trees. They’re great for the horticulturally challenged, since they grow slowly and need only average watering. A word of warning though – once the party’s over, they must be kept indoors. They’re native to much warmer places than Canada.
5) Go organic and give back. If you're in the market for an elusive organic tree, look no further than The Bees Knees Christmas Trees. Their enviro-friendly firs are grown without the use of harsh fertilizers or pesticides. These babies are about as ethical as they come: they are the first Salmon Safe Certified Christmas trees grown anywhere in Canada. The Bees Knees are donating a percentage of their sales to the Wildlife Rescue Association at Burnaby Lake. You can pick up a Bees Knees Tree at this year's Holiday Market, run by Vancouver Farmers Market.
Real trees, cut your own:
1) Before heading out to the tree farm, you might want to pick up a few tips on how to choose a tree.
2) Then you might want to browse this list of tree farms in the Lower Mainland. Some offer refreshments, activities for the kids and other decorating bits and pieces like wreaths and garlands, so have a good look through their websites.
Here are a few of the farms we really like:
H&M Christmas tree farm: For those who like a menu of trees to choose from and a Christmas-like air while they're making their choice, this Richmond farm is perfect. H&M is kid-friendly and they'll help you load the tree once you've chopped it down.
OH Christmas Tree Farm: Seventeen acres of space, this family business in Langley has firs and spruce in their collection. They offer u-cut, live rootball trees and potted baby trees; saws and twine are provided.
Heritage Christmas Tree Farm: This Chilliwack farm sells sheared Douglas Firs, Grand Firs and Noble firs. On weekends there are wagon rides for kids and you can often find trees pre-cut, if you just want the farm experience.
Real trees from tree lots:
A lot of the lots don't open until mid-December, and the sites tend to mushroom all of a sudden. We've listed some of the regulars, and will add to the list as the season goes on. Prices vary, and some use the profits for assorted good causes, so if that matters to you, shop around.
Aunt Leah's Christmas Trees: Aunt Leah's sells an assortment of firs at its four lots in the Lower Mainland. Proceeds are used by the charity to fund programs for teen moms and foster kids.
TREK Outdoor and Environmental Education Program: Near Arbutus and West King Edward, last year, you could find trees starting from $14-$150 at the Prince of Wales Secondary School.
Vancouver South Lions at the John Oliver High School: All proceeds went last year to the Lions Club International charities.
David Hunter Garden Centres: The “cut tree” selection included firs and but this place had a bunch of cool flowers, too.
Real trees, bought online:
For those of you who want the authentic tree experience but can't be bothered to get off the couch and seek it out, there's a new service offering online ordering.
Aunt Leah's Place: Aunt Leah's, as we said above, offers cut trees and uses the proceeds to support foster kids. This year, it's added a new service: order one of the company's fresh-cut trees or other products online and you can have it delivered to your door. Or you can pick it up at one of four lots in Vancouver, Burnaby, North Van or Coquitlam.
Fake and fabulous:
What can we say? The sky's the limit here. You can find everything from tiny table-top units to tall-and-slim apartment friendly trees, from pink feathered numbers to realistic-looking firs. Some are plain; some come with lights already on them, ready to snap together and plug in. Try all the usual department stores and bix boxes, but scout around your neighbourhood independents and dollar stores too. And if you don't mind used, there's always eBay and Craigslist.
Finally, for the utterly lazy, busy or stressed folks:
Get someone else to do it. We found at least one company willing to let you pretend you're Donald Trump and they're the hired help you have in every year to spruce the mansion up before your annual Christmas shindig. The folks at Afforda Home Services are busy the rest of the year cleaning gutters and pressure washing, but they get in the festive spirit once a year and offer a holiday lighting service in Burnaby, Vancouver and North Van. As part of it, they do indoor trees -- set up and decoration.
And if you prefer the digital kind, you can always decorate your virtual tree online with Castle Arcana's Trim a Christmas Tree.