For most of us the Christmas tree is the centrepiece of our Christmas decorations, and there are those that want a real tree and those that prefer the convenience and cleanness of an artificial tree. Well, we think it's a good idea to have an artificial tree that has the looks and feel of a real tree - this way there's no pine needles to clear up and we have that authentic feel throughout the holiday season without the tree becoming a mere skeleton of twiggy branches. With this in mind, we are going to see if the famous Balsam Hill brand lives up to our expectations.
Choice, Design and Assembly
We decided to go for the 'Fraser Fir', which is the popular flagship choice, although Balsam Hill do offer an extremely vast and good range of alternative styles. Of course we had carefully measured our available height, which allowed for a 6.5ft version, and chose a pre-lit tree with 400 LED clear candlelights retailing at £489 UK or $759 US. To adorn the tree we chose Balsam Hill's own ornament set of 35 glass silver and gold pieces at £189 UK or $229 US, and to cover the stand we have their Cardinal Berkshire tree skirt retailing at £99 UK or $79 US.
Well, our first impressions on receiving the boxed tree were extremely favourable. The tree comes in three parts and also includes the stand, two pairs of gloves, a suitable transformer plug and spare bulbs, as well as a large bag to store the tree when not in use. The three parts of the tree are clearly numbered for assembly and there are adequate instructions included. Everything is packed well and tied with ribbons, and there is a sense, even before erecting the tree, that Balsam Hill truly care about making the whole process a simple pleasure.
The simplicity of actually putting this tree together is a satisfyingly pleasure. Balsam Hill have a unique 'Easy Plug' system which means you just fold out the stand with its rubber tipped feet and then slot the first section in, followed in turn with each further section - all the electrical connectors between the sections are in the centre trunk. At this stage we easily hid the stand under the rather sumptuous quilted skirt. However, don't be misled into thinking that is all there is to it, because a necessary part of setting the tree up is in adjusting the branches. This is where the thoughtfully included special gloves come in very useful because, as each layer of the main branches are dropped into place via a clever hinged mechanism, you must spread out the individual smaller branches. Wearing the silky gloves makes this process very smooth and pleasing to the touch, and whilst perfecting the shaping of the branches we became aware of just how well this tree is made, with all parts being carefully constructed and well finished.
Although you can work on the branches while the tree is lit, we enjoyed having the assembly finished so that we could treat switching on the lights as something special. In went the plug and on went the perfectly pre-fitted lights and we were immediately imbued with Christmas seasonal magic.
From the realistic colouring of the tree trunk to the careful construction of the branches and pine needles, we are in awe of the authenticity this tree offers. Even the undersides of the pine needles are lighter in colour - just like the many pine trees in our garden. We have certainly never seen any other artificial Christmas tree that boasts such meticulous detail! When we study the tree during bright early mornings, with winter sunlight shimmering across the branches, it really shows off the intricate detail of the needles and their unique arrangements. And then, during the dark evenings where wall lighting is present, this Fraser Fir proudly retains the subtle features of a real tree, and the colouring is noticeably darker without natural light, just as we see with real fir trees when brought indoors.
Decorating the Tree
As previously mentioned, we decorated our tree with Balsam Hill's set of 35 silver and gold genuine glass ornaments. These arrived in strong packaging, with each wrapped individually in copious amounts of tissue paper, the removal of which became like opening presents as we discovered there are nineteen different beautiful sparkling, glittery designs to behold. There are baubles, lanterns, stars and icicles, and the bells are particularly amazing as each one includes a working clapper, which is itself a tinkling metal bell; although it is probably best to be circumspect when using these given the fragile nature of glass! Being ready-strung with gold ribbon, hanging the ornaments on the tree could not have been simpler, and they shimmer and sparkle against the lights wonderfully.
Balsam Hill include a back-up pouch which contains many spare LED bulbs, a tool to help in changing them, and even four spare rubber feet for the stand - talk about attention to detail! In fact, everything about this Christmas tree and its peripherals reflects a great amount of care and attention to both the detail of manufacture and the customer. The 400 lights, being replaceable LEDs, are particularly energy efficient for the number included, burning a maximum of 30vdc, 0.3A, and being already wired onto the tree there is no worry about placing them correctly; or putting them away, come to that, as when the holiday season is over, packing the tree into the large supplied zipped carry bag is an easy task. On that note it is well worth remembering that the cost of this tree is a true investment because it is so well made it will basically last for years into the future - it does, in fact, come with a 10 year warranty. If you buy a real tree every year you would soon have spent more than the initial cost from Balsam Hill and have nothing to show for it other than a pile of pine needles!
All Set for Christmas
With the tree decorated and lit we are able to stand back and truly admire the effect. We started by saying that we wanted an artificial tree that looked real. Well, Balsam Hill have certainly provided that with this 'Fraser Fir'. Together with the perfectly matched ornaments and tree skirt, this tree oozes classic Christmas appeal. It looks like a real tree and the LED candlelights sparkle against the deep green foliage and bounce off the glitter-clad ornaments in a way that magically transforms our Cornish cottage into a world of Christmas wonder. We definitely recommend Balsam Hill to anyone looking for a touch of class and longevity with their traditional Christmas tree.