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HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS TAB Oh, Christmas tree: Pining for perfection

While for many people nothing says Christmas like a Christmas tree, finding one easily can become an overwhelming task. With more than 16 varieties of live trees and 35 styles of artificial ones from which to choose, here's some savvy tree-shopping tips to pick the perfect evergreen for the home.

There are five key considerations to keep in mind: space, size, type, coverage and lighting.

Space

Decide where the tree will be placed, and create a space free of obstructions. Lifestyle and living space also play important roles in choosing the right tree for the home.

Slim trees are popular among apartment and condo dwellers. With a 36-to 48-inch base, these trees are very narrow and easy to decorate, and they fit into smaller, nontraditional areas of the home.

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Size

Trees are available in a variety of heights from 18 inches to 12 feet. Again, consider lifestyle when selecting the size of a tree. For homeowners "on the go," trimming a 4-foot tree might be festive and manageable.

Also, give thought to ceiling height. Allow at least one foot between the top of the tree and the ceiling, which creates enough space for the tree topper.

Type

Because most of today's artificial trees mimic real ones, the tree type is equally important to consider for both artificial and live trees. Trees vary in coloration, needle-style and shape, creating a look and feel to complement personal style and preference. Among some popular varieties are the Fraser fir, Scotch pine, Noble fir and Douglas fir. For needles that look and feel like the real thing, check out three styles of GE "Just Cut" artificial trees.

Fullness

Coverage refers to the density of the tree's branches. It is important to choose a tree that offers enough coverage to suit personal taste, but that still provides enough space to decorate. A full tree might be harder to decorate, with little space to hang and display ornaments. A good gauge of fullness on an artificial tree is the "tip count." Generally, the more tips the tree has, the fuller it looks.

Lighting

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For artificial pre-lit trees, consider the tree's coverage and light placement. Using the "squint test," squint the eyes to reveal any holes or areas that are not properly lit to determine if it is the desired look and effect. When purchasing lights for live trees, measure the tree to determine how many lights it will require. Miniature lights are ideal for live trees because they produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree.

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