Artificial Christmas trees have come a long way since they were first developed in the 19th century. With a history seeded in the tradition of hanging real evergreen trees upside-down from the ceiling during cold, long winters, these firs and spruces were meant to serve as a reminder that spring is just around the corner.
Since the 1880s artificial Christmas trees have been developed using everything from carved wood to goose feathers dyed green. Finally in the 1930’s, PVC trees were invented and became widely popular because they were affordable, resistant to fire, they lasted long, and they were light and easy to handle.
PVC trees have papery green flat needles wrapped around wired branches and a metal center pole. If you owned an artificial tree in the 90’s or earlier, then it was probably made from PVC. When Tree Classics was founded in 1976, PVC was right at the height of its popularity.
Over the decades, much had been done to make them look more realistic. Gradients of green and hints of brown were added to give visual texture to the branch tips. The wire branches were made bendable. Different tree profiles were experimented with. But there were limits to what you could really do with the flat, two-dimensional PVC needles.
In the past decade or so, tree manufacturers began to experiment with a different technology called Polyethylene, or PE for short. Among the pioneers of this new kind of foliage, Tree Classics developed its own blend, called Real Feel™.
Unlike flat PVC needles, PE needles are injection-molded into three-dimensional shapes using different pigmentation for greater color accuracy. The best artificial Christmas trees are created to mimic actual species of fir and spruce trees. They even feel like real tree needles.
Because PE needles are more expensive to make, most manufacturers use a combination of PE on the outside and PVC for fullness on the inside near the center of the tree. However, there are 100% PE needle trees available at a premium price.
PE trees are quickly becoming the new standard in artificial Christmas tree technology. They are preferred by landscapers, interior decorators, and even set designers of popular TV shows.