A Guide to Finding the Christmas Tree of Your Dreams
Real or Artificial?
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a real tree or an artificial one. Today's artificial trees look and feel very realistic, are convenient to unpack and setup year after year, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes (including colored and pre-lit) so you can get exactly the look you want with minimal effort. Artificial trees also never drop needles or need to be watered. Real Christmas trees on the other hand do require more daily upkeep but they also smell great, create a certain ambiance with their unique and natural character, and offer the richly traditional experience of going out to the lot or tree farm to be picked out fresh year after year.
Size and Shape
Tall and skinny, short and fat, pencil or upside-down, the size and shape of your Christmas tree will have a great impact on how it looks in your home. Plan where the tree will go and take measurements of the space to make keeping track of size and scale easier when you're out shopping. Also think about your decorating style: do you like trees where ornaments dangle freely and lights twinkle through or do you prefer tight, dense branches where ornaments drape along the outside? Pyramid-shaped trees (Frasier Fir, Noble Fir, Douglas Fir) are generally taller and more open while cone-shaped ones (Scotch Pine, Norway Spruce) are of a shorter, denser persuasion. Other options include tall and narrow pencil trees (usually artificial), which have a contemporary look and are perfect for tight spaces, and of course the ever-curious upside-down tree that's specially designed to use minimal floor space.
Artificial trees come in all colors, from natural green to neon pink, and can easily fit into any decor scheme. Natural trees, although technically only available in "green," come in a variety of shades that can vary from light green to dark green to silver and even blue. Balsams, Douglas Firs, and Scotch Pines are all a dark and rich traditional green while Noble and Frasier Firs have a pretty silver sheen and Colorado Blue Spruce trees come with a definite blue to blue-gray to whitish tint.
For some people putting up a Christmas tree is as much about the festive smell as it is about the lights and the ornaments. Although most any freshly cut and well-watered tree will have a noticeably pleasant aroma when in the confines of a home or building if you're looking to get the most bang for your buck the most fragrant Christmas trees are Balsam Firs, Frasier Firs, and Douglas Firs. Just make sure the tree is as fresh as possible when you buy it and keep it well watered all season.
Scotch Pines are widely known as the best when it comes to needle retention (even when allowed to completely dry out) but Frasier Firs, Balsam Firs, and Colorado Blue Spruce also hold their needles very well. Norway Spruce, on the other hand, is known as being the worst in this category with the shortest 'life span' once cut (as little as a week in some cases) and the most demanding water requirements.