Nothing says "It's the holidays!" like tying a tree to the top of your car and driving it around town before placing it in a bucket of water in your living room for a couple of months. Ah, Christmas!
Here are a few tips on selecting, securing and setting up a Christmas tree in your home:
Before you head out to the tree lot, measure the height of the ceiling in the room where you want to display the tree. It should be at least a foot taller than the tree you pick out. Dry needles are a fire hazard, so pick a location away from heat sources, such as direct sunlight, heaters or fans.
Next, find a local tree farm, shop or nursery, and bring plenty of plastic and rope to secure the tree for the ride home. Once you are on the tree lot, look for a tree that is fresh and healthy. A fresh tree will have bright green, flexible needles with very few falling off when shaken.
After you've picked out a tree, wrap it in the plastic for the ride home. To avoid wind damage when driving, arrange the tree on the car roof so that the stump faces the front of your vehicle.
If your vehicle has a roof rack, secure the tree to the car roof top at several places along the length of the trunk. If your car doesn't have a rack, open all the car doors - not the windows - and tie the tree snugly to the roof with rope - passing the rope through the car's interior. If you are unfamiliar with the process of tying a tree to the roof of your car, ask for help from the tree lot personnel. They tie hundreds of trees to hundreds of cars every year using specialized knots and fastening methods.
Drive slowly and avoid the highway, especially if you're not used to hauling objects on your roof. They can change your vehicle's center of gravity and its handling.
When you arrive home with your tree, use a sharp pruning saw to cut about an inch off the bottom of the trunk. This is important. When the tree trunk was originally cut, resin clotted the exposed ends of the tracheids, the cells through which the tree takes up water. Cutting the trunk exposes fresh tracheids and allows the tree to take up water once again, which will prolong the tree's freshness.
After your cut is made, place the tree in water as quickly as possible, even if you are not setting it up right away. If you are not setting it up immediately, then place it in a cool location, such as the garage, to keep the foliage fresh. Do not let the base of the cut tree dry out.
Note that some tree lots will make this cut for you at the time of purchase. If this is the case, and you get the tree home and in water within the hour, you shouldn't have to repeat the process.
Some people may use commercial Christmas tree preservatives, which can be mixed into the water in the stand, but this procedure isn't scientifically proven to extend the life of the tree. You can also spray the tree with an anti-desiccant, which is a waxy substance that will help keep the needles from drying out as quickly.