White fir (Abies concolor)
Native to North America’s western mountains, the white fir offers horizontal tiers of sturdy branches for all your big ornaments, a lovely evergreen aroma with a touch of citrus and a handsome shape that is slightly narrower than other varieties. The needles are flat, flexible, about four centimetres long (often longer) and curved upward from the stem. Their colour ranges from silvery green to a definite blue-green. This tree has a very dense texture, ideal for weaving in strings of lights with no strings showing. Available at farms and nurseries.
Needle retention score: 4
Coloroado blue spruce (Picea pungens [Glauca Group])
For a striking change from traditional green, look to the Colorado blue spruce with its frosty blue needles. An increasingly popular choice as a cut tree and a living tree (one that can be planted outdoors after Christmas), the Colorado blue spruce has the same characteristics as its green sibling, including rigid branches, very prickly needles and a lack of fragrance. Available at farms and nurseries.
Needle retention score: 3
Fraser fir (Abies fraseri)
Often designated “the Cadillac of Christmas trees” with a price to match, the Fraser fir has a natural symmetry, woodsy aroma and excellent needle retention. It is a decorator’s dream with pliant, cascading branches that are sturdy enough for heavy ornaments and also perfectly spaced to show them off. Its soft, flattened needles are dark green on top, silvery underneath and about two centimetres long. The tree is named for Scottish botanist John Fraser, who explored the Appalachians in the late 1700s. Sadly, the natural stands he found are dying but the Fraser fir remains alive and well in cultivation and living rooms at Christmastime. Widely available.
Needle retention score: 5