Stop hedging and start shopping: Picking out the perfect pine is as easy as one-two-tree.
Farm it out
Getting a tree the old-fashioned way is a lot easier—and a lot closer—than you'd think. Anderson Tree Farm (3 miles west of Illinois Highway 59 on Illinois Highway 126, Plainfield; 815-436-2140) is an easy 45-minute drive from the Loop and provides complimentary handsaws and hot chocolate. A variety of trees are $7 per foot, and the farm full of animals—including a zedonkey (half-zebra, half-donkey) named Julio—is worth the trip alone. Another 45-minute destination is the picturesque Marmion Abbey Tree Farm (850 Butterfield Rd, Aurora; 630-897-7215, ext 339; www.marmion.org), which sells spruces and Austrian, white and Scotch pines for flat rates of $25 to $30. An hour from downtown, Luers Christmas Tree Farm (6303 W 91st Ave, Crown Point, IN; 219-663-2832) sells firs and spruces ($5.50/foot) and pines ($4.50/foot). Also an hour away is Spring Bluff Nursery (41W130 Norris Rd, Sugar Grove; 630-466-4278, www.springbluffnursery.com), with a variety of trees going for $40 each.
Make the neighbors green with envy with a shock of silver. Urban Outfitters (www.urbanoutfitters.com) also carries 3-foot ($24) and 6-foot ($68) tinsel trees in pink, turquoise, green and white. For a classy Christmas cocktail party, Jayson Home & Garden's 4-foot ($90) and 6-foot ($250) trees are available in silver and gold.
Don't let tree allergies—or the thought of all those shed needles—spoil your holiday. Target (www.target.com) stocks a simple, prelit 8-foot ($199) Cashmere Pine doppelgänger, but Jayson Home & Garden (1885 N Clybourn Ave, 773-248-8180) takes the cake: The first time we laid eyes on its 7.5-foot Apache prelit Fraser fir ($735), we swore we could smell Christmas.
The real McCoy
Taking home a precut piece of pine doesn't have to cost a fortune. Skip the overpriced asphalt lots and hoof it to Home Depot (www.homedepot.com) for a traditional Fraser fir in either the 6-to 8-foot ($40) or 8- to 10-foot ranges ($50). Slightly thinner, prebundled 5- to 8-foot Scotch pine trees can go home with you for a mere $15.
The giving tree
Never trim 'em and leave 'em again: Buy a year-round tree and you'll have one to grow on. The refreshingly different potted Norfolk pines at Sprout Home (745 N Damen Ave; 312-226-5950, www.sprouthome.com) start at 3 feet ($40, pictured) and with proper care can flourish for years. Also at Sprout Home, potted rosemary trees start at 1.5 feet ($24.50) and make a welcome addition in the kitchen year-round. For larger trees, Home Depot's potted Fraser firs start at 4 to 5 feet ($60) and can be repotted as they grow, while Colorado and Norway spruces ($60) should be replanted outdoors after the holidays.