Balsam Hill Christmas Trees. How good are they?

Silverado Slim

I have a confession. I have been obsessively stalking Balsam Hill Christmas trees for the past few months. Now I have one I can’t help but leave my searches on eBay, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, in the hope that a Silverado 6ft unlit tree comes up.

I base this insanity on somewhere someone said that they were looking for a slim tree and whilst they had the Norway Spruce, they regretted not buying the Silverado which a family member had and they thought that it was better. Really? That’s all?!

The Silverado was out of stock at Balsam Hill, so I set up an email request for when this tree was back in stock but then it became a game of chicken as Black Friday loomed. I emailed Balsam Hill and they said that it was unlikely that any more out of trees would come back in stock in time for this season and to be fair to them I have yet to receive a ‘back in stock’ email.

So here I am with a marginally second choice tree based on insufficient logic and I am very happy with it thank you very much. Why the endless research and scouring of second-hand sites?

Norway Spruce

Well, if you look at the reviews on trust pilot for Balsam Hill in the UK, and especially Balsam Hill in the US, you will see very polarising views on Balsam Hill trees. There are some very happy customers out there but also lots of very unhappy customers, particularly in the US.

Customer Reviw Very disappointed

“In October of 2018 I spent $1273.00 for a 7.5′ Colorado Mountain Spruce Balsom Hill flip tree. The first year it was stunning! This year the lights don’t work.”

$1273.00! Here is the crux of all this. Balsam Hill trees are not cheap. I’ve yet to watch the prices on their site for full-year but it seems that even with their regular sales and offers prices for a Balsam Hill tree are above average. In the past few months alone I have seen a variety of early bird offers, Black Friday, and now Cyber Week offers.

Like most companies, Balsam Hill offer a variety of products and varying price points. The quoted reviewer’s tree was one of the more expensive trees on offer, but you’d expect it would last beyond three Christmas uses though. Looking through the reviews there are issues with the warranties which are notoriously short. There are problems with the delivery service, charges for re-stocking fees for trees customers are disappointed with, and lighting failures. With all these reviews I was nervous about buying a Balsam Hill tree and spending too much so as well as watching Balsam Hill prices, I was also watching the resale sites. These trees resell at about half-price but I did notice that a lot of them had ‘only been used once’. I have a real tree in my entrance hall and I wouldn’t want to replace it with a faux one, that said I am really happy with my Balsam Hill Norway Spruce as a second tree in our kitchen. It looks fab.

It’s a great tree for £149. Most of the needles are the high-end ‘Most Realistic’ type and they really do look good. They have a silver sheen to them like the real tree. The tree structure is a bit too even and gappy for it to be mistaken for a real tree but it’s considerably better than a lot of other faux trees on the market. It is gappier than the sales photo would have you believe, but I think the needles are better in reality than the photos on the website are able to show.

With all the hoopla about Balsam Hill trees being super easy to assemble with the flip top, pre-lit ranges why have I opted for the simple unlit version? Well, the flip-top requires a bit of storage space which if you live in the US and have a huge garage that’s not a problem. In the UK space is at much more of a premium.

With regard to the pre-lit trees, my rejection was simply down to cowardice. Whilst there are plenty of happy pre-lit tree owners, there are a lot of people who have clearly experienced considerable pain with half-working, single and multiple broken bulbs. Having read the reviews I just decided I couldn’t face the merry hell which some customers experienced trying to locate and replace broken bulbs. I felt a detachable set I could examine across a table was the lower risk route.

So would I recommend a Balsam Hill Norway Spruce? Yes, it looks great. But, buyer beware, do your research.

The Expanse

The-Expanse

A bit late to the party on this one, but I am benefitting from the joy of binging because this show is already 3 seasons in. Early adopters are poised for the start of season 4 airing shortly.

So what is The Expanse? It’s an American science fiction television series based on the novels by James S. A. Corey. Season one opens with a mystery ship in trouble. We are then introduced to Earth 200 years in the future, and the expanded universe where humans have colonised Mars and built habitable floating stations in The Belt. These three human colonies are at varying degrees of development and enjoying varying levels of comfort. Unsurprisingly there are tensions between the three and we are introduced to a number of story strands which you fully expect at some point to meet up and explain what the opening scene is all about. Only one episode in and I was hooked.

So what’s the big deal with this sci fi show? When we look at the technology I think viewers can actually imagine how humans might have made the steps to develop the technology on display to when the show is set 200 years in the future. It feels achievable. The tech is not glossy, nor is it too far removed from where we are now. For the older folks amongst us, we can see how rapidly tech has changed over the last couple of decades thus making the advancement of human life 200 years into the future world of The Expanse believable.

I do like a well-paced episode. The Expanse provides enough information to introduce the location and characters without feeling slow. I never felt left behind by the tech environment or the plot. Obviously there were times that I didn’t have all of the answers but that is part of the slow-reveal mystery of the show. Unsurprisingly there is also a lot of action, with physical fights, shooting and things blowing up, but there is are also quieter pieces with lots of tension.

I really like the characters in The Expanse. The show demonstrates the same care towards some of the characters epitomised by the early seasons of the Walking Dead. The characters have strengths and vulnerabilities and their behaviour appears reasonable under the circumstances that they are in.

If you’ve yet to be convinced, take a look at the ratings from Rotten Tomatoes. 100% for season 3, I cant wait!

Due to immense pressure from fans and some great timing commercially, it was picked up by Amazon who has already commissioned season 5 before season 4 starts airing. The future of The Expanse is looking great, do give it a go!