Question: Normally we buy a Fraser fir for our Christmas tree, but I'm thinking about branching out this year. What can you tell me about other types?
Answer: Fraser fir is one of the most popular types of Christmas tree, along with Douglas fir and Scotch pine, but there are many others. What's available to you will depend mostly on the region you live in and whether you're shopping at a choose-and-cut farm or a pre-cut lot.
Arizona cypress: Very tiny, pale or grayish green needles are carried in profusion on the branches, giving this tree great visual texture and density. Native to the Southwest. A good choice but largely limited to choose-and-cut farms in the South and Southwest.
Balsam fir: Short, flat needles are dark green, long lasting and highly fragrant. Usually has a nice symmetrical shape.
Blue spruce: Needles can be silvery or powdery blue. May be familiar as a landscape plant (Picea pungens). Holds its needles well. If you're purchasing a live Christmas tree (with roots, to be planted later), it is likely a blue spruce.
Douglas fir: Needles emit a sweet scent when crushed. They are soft to the touch and dark green. Popular and widely available.
Eastern redcedar: A type of juniper with dark green, shiny needles and red bark. Popular in the South, where families harvested wild specimens before tree farms became the norm. Highly fragrant. Availability is largely limited to choose-and-cut farms.
Fraser fir: Short, dark green needles. Nicely fragrant. Not prone to needle drop. Branches tilt upward, giving the tree a compact shape and revealing the lighter underside of the needles. Very popular and widely seen.
Leyland cypress: Needles look feathery in texture. Only lightly fragrant. Good choice for families prone to allergies or sensitivities to fragrances. Mostly available at choose-and-cut farms only.
Noble fir: Long-lasting tree with very sturdy, stiff branches. Upturned needles are green on top and silvery below. Widely used in wreaths and other decorations.
Scotch pine: Dark green needles that do not fall off even if the tree becomes dry. Long-lasting fragrance. Stiff branches are great for all sorts of ornaments.
Virginia pine: Dark needles, stout limbs. Prevalent in the Southeast.
White pine: Soft, bluish or silvery green needles. Has little fragrance. Good choice for families prone to allergies or sensitivities to fragrances. Caveat: Branching can be too dense for large ornaments. Needles can be too slippery and soft for heavy ornaments.
Great stocking stuffer: Sunflower Houses, a nostalgic celebration of gardening for children and the young at heart
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