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Honest review of the artificial tree

Growing up, the Christmas tree was one of my family’s most important parts of our Christmas tradition. It wasn’t until we successfully sourced and collectively erected our aromatic conifer that the holiday season could officially start.

Whether it was venturing out to chop down our own, heading to the grocery store parking lot to pick the right one, to even New York City Christmas tree trips to my local bodega to shell out a premium price to the tree farmers-cum-street vendors who set up shop alongside the sidewalk – if there isn’t a decked out Christmas tree in my living room, no amount of lights, garland, carols, or Santas can make it truly feel like Christmas.

As a new homeowner with an evergrowing list of new household tasks, the thought of hunting a tree, keeping it watered, keeping the dogs out of it, cleaning up after it, and taking it all down doesn’t elicit the same feelings of joy it used to. Now, I just want it done.

For most of my years, I was adamantly against anything that would fall under the guise of an artificial Christmas tree. But here’s the thing – these days, I get to traverse tree farms with my nieces and travel more for the holidays than I ever did as a kid. Plus, let’s be honest; I’m just plain tired. Who can relate?

So this year, I decided to test drive an artificial tree. And what better tree to test drive than the Rolls Royce of artificial trees? The highly coveted Balsam Hill Christmas Tree.

BH Balsam Fir Flip Tree from beginning to end
Balsam Hill

If you had told me 20 years ago (even only a couple of years ago) I would be turning down the option to bring a fresh Fraser fir or sappy blue spruce into my new home, I would have laughed right in your face. Oh, how things change.

The Realism

Three types of trees from Balsam Hill
From left to right: Traditional, Realistic, Most Realistic
Balsam Hill

The tree I chose is the BH Balsam Fir Flip Tree. That’s right – if I’m going artificial, I’m going to do it right. I want something that not only looks real but is really easy too.

There are three levels of realism for Balsam Hill Christmas trees:

  • Traditional: These are the types of trees most people are familiar with. This style is generally more cost-effective, and Balsam Hill uses 100% polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to create what it calls “Classic Needle” foliage.
  • Realistic: Balsam Hill’s Realistic trees use up to 65% polyethylene (PE) to create what the brand calls “True Needle” foliage. The remainder of the tree foliage is Classic Needle, which achieves the realism you want with the budget you have.
  • Most Realistic: When you think of Balsam Hill, these are the trees that come to mind. These trees use more than 65% True Needle foliage for outstanding realism, with Classic Needles deeper in the tree near the trunk to add fullness and depth.

If you aren’t sure where to start, it’s OK. I wasn’t quite sure either. Given this is what Balsam Hill is known for, it should be no surprise that it has an incredibly comprehensive, easy-to-use guide on how to pick a tree.

When perusing the Balsam Hill website, the 7.5-foot pre-lit Balsam Fir Flip Tree, which falls within the “Most Realistic” category, seemed perfect.

My Tree Delivery

left side balsam hill box unopened right side balsam hill box with tree in red bag
Left: The box as it was delivered. Right: How the tree was packaged in the box.
Barret Wertz

In my line of work, I get a lot of packages. This means I have the pleasure of getting to know my FedEx delivery person.

“What’s in here!? A person?” he asked, dragging the coffin-sized box across my front lawn as I opened my front door. With delight, I replied, “My new Christmas tree!”

It was clear from the start that this wouldn’t be some rinky-dink bargain-basement artificial Christmas tree that would instantly make me regret my decision. I got the box inside and took a step back – this would be a serious endeavor. I couldn’t wait to open it up and see it in all its glory.

The Set Up

tree in red bag next to upside down tree
Left: Balsam Hill Christmas tree in it’s storage bag. Right: The base of the tree prior to being flipped.
Barret Wertz

The setup was surprisingly easy. I started by rolling the sophisticatedly secured tree out of the box. I was delivered upright, so all that was required was releasing the clasp holding the bagged tree sturdy and in place.

Once I had the tree out of the box, and where I wanted it, I quickly ripped open the velcro to reveal what appeared to be a broken Christmas tree. It seemed much wider at the top than the bottom and gave me fake tree vibes.

Flipping a Balsam Hill Flip tree

Before I went further, I watched the Flip Tree setup video. I did not believe it would be as easy as Flip Tree inventor Bruce Schooley and, presumably, his wife Valerie insisted it would be in the one-minute clip. So when it was actually that easy, I was gobsmacked.

I started by rolling the sophisticatedly secured tree out of the box. I was delivered upright, so all that was required was releasing the clasp holding the bagged tree sturdy and in place. Once I had the tree out of the box, and where I wanted it, I easily ripped open the velcro to reveal what appeared to be a Christmas tree broken in half. It was much wider at the top than the bottom and was giving me fake tree vibes.

Tree stand and light plug on balsam hill trrr
Balsam Hill

As instructed by the Schooleys, I locked the wheels and put my foot on the side of the stand stated in the video and very quickly and easily flipped the tree over. Now, those traditional artificial tree branches acting as filler deep within the bottom of the tree all but disappeared beneath hyperrealistic fir branches.

So, there’s half the tree; where’s the rest, you ask? Packaged carefully in its own Rudolph red velcro bag specially designed to keep the top portion of the tree safe and shaped.

I opened the smaller bag with another rip of velcro and quickly inserted its trunk into the opening of the base, and that was it. I got a pre-lit tree, which required the additional step of connecting the power when connecting the top and base, but after that, I was just about done.

The Zhuzhing

Tree in the corner of my livingroom
Barret Wertz

The last step, which is more so for first-timers, is to fluff and shape the tree into an organic appearance that reflects the realistic look of the full greenery. In case you’re wondering, Balsam Hill also accounted for that by including not one, but two sets of gloves that make digging deep in the branches to shape them without worrying about getting poked by sharp needles.

Taking It Down

Well, if I thought putting this tree up was easy, I was in for a treat when it came to taking it down. Sadly, we laypeople still need to take all the ornaments off and pack them in their Rubbermaid bins.

However, once that part of the breakdown is complete, forget about dealing with unruly strings of lights, dry, sharp needles, or dumping gloopy water. This tree costs a premium for a reason. The design removes the actual work from having a tree so that you can enjoy it.

Unplug the single string of lights, remove the top third of the tree and place it in the red velcro bag. Next, unlock the base wheels, and give a good thrust – like magic, it flips upside down and assumes its position until next year.

The one element that was a little tricky – I hesitate even to go as far as to say difficult – was getting the big red bag wrapped and velcroed around the base of the tree. Once it has been shaped and fluffed up enough for celebration, it doesn’t want to fit in the bag as well as before.

Pros and Cons of a Balsam Hill Christmas Tree

The Pros

  • This tree looks incredibly lifelike
  • No watering, no vacuuming, practically no risk of fire
  • The pre-lit option made set up even easier and resulted in many fewer naughty list-worthy swear words trying to untangle stupid strings of lights
  • So easy to unpack, set up, break down, pack up, and move to storage, thanks to the flip design and rolling castor base
  • The 7.5-foot height is an excellent size for any room in the future, allowing me to reuse it for many years, which should save me money

The Cons

  • No signature sappy scent
  • There is no mention on the website that this tree is recyclable or biodegradable (however, the brand does work with Give Back Box, a charity allowing me to donate my tree, free of charge when I am done with it)
  • Short-term cost – This tree was *not* cheap (it wasn’t cheaply made, either)
  • PVC and other chemicals used may be harmful to people and the environment, which is just a fact to consider when looking into this or any artificial tree

My Verdict

If you are in the market for an artificial Christmas tree, I highly recommend you start with the best there is — Balsam Hill.

Maybe it’s because this is my first Christmas with a Balsam Hill tree, but I am really excited. It feels like I have been accepted to a Christmas club I didn’t know I needed. I’m looking forward to cuddling up on my couch, lighting a fire, and plugging in my favorite Bath and Body Works Fresh Balsam Wallflower (you heard me – they are the best, what can I say).

It’s easy to say that it doesn’t matter how realistic your Christmas tree looks, but once you have another cheap plastic tree, it will look like another cheap tree. Cheap plastic trees don’t look nearly as good or last nearly as long as a durable tree built with future family festivities in mind. If you’re looking for a cheap throwaway tree, keep looking. If you’re looking for the last tree you’ll ever need to buy; you’re in the right place.

The Balsam Hill tree that’s right for you largely depends on your budget. Trees within the Most Realistic category range from $349 to nearly $10,000. Realistic trees start from $499 and reach $11,000. Traditional-style trees start at $299 to $3,200.

Something to keep in mind is that the taller the tree, the more costly it will be. Some of Balsam Hill’s Realistic and Most Realistic trees can reach 18 feet tall, while Traditional trees top out at 15 feet.

Additionally, elements such as lights and the proprietary flip design of some trees add to the cost. However, there is no need to feel like you’ll have to spend three months’ mortgage to afford one artificial (looking) Christmas tree. Plenty of quality trees at an average height of 7 to 7.5 feet, from Traditional to Most Realistic, come in under $1,000.

I found nine of the best Balsam Hill Artificial Christmas trees under $1,000:

balsam hill Classic Blue Spruce tree
Balsam Hill

balsam hill Frosted Sugar Pine tree
Balsam Hill

balsam hill Berkshire Mountain Fir Tree
Balsam Hill

balsam hill Scotch Pine tree
Balsam Hill

balsam hill Woodland Spruce tree
Balsam Hill

balsam hill Durango Douglas Fir tree
Balsam Hill

balsam hill Grand Canyon Cedar tree
Balsam Hill

balsam hill Alpine Balsam Fir tree
Balsam Hill

Balsam Hill BH Nordmann Fir tree
Balsam Hill

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