Get a Live One (or at Least a Not-So-Dead One)
Once you're perusing the lot, picking the right tree is like picking ripe mango: you should smell and touch.
1. Test the branches. Grab any branch on the tree between your thumb and forefinger, gently clamp down and pull towards yourself. If you end up with a handful of needles, the tree is already past its prime.
2. Crush the needles in your hand and then check the scent. "If the tree doesn't smell enough, don't buy it," says Roger.
3. Bounce the tree by holding it a few inches above the ground and dropping it. If the exterior needles fall off, it's sure sign of a bad apple. Needles that fall off from the interior of the tree are normal.
4. Make absolutely sure the tree's trunk fits your stand. Trimming the diameter of the tree by cutting away the bark will strip the tree of its cambium layer, which absorbs water. If this happens your tree is a goner.