Canaan fir (Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis)
A fairly new arrival on the Christmas tree scene, the Canaan fir (named for the Canaan Valley in West Virginia) combines the bouquet of a balsam fir with the good looks of the Fraser fir. Growers like it because it tolerates a wider range of conditions and grows more quickly than other firs. Consumers like its easy-to-decorate branches (ideal for medium-weight ornaments) and soft needles. Lustrous green with silvery bands on the underside, the needles are two to three centimetres long and slightly curved. It may be hard to find but look for it at farms and nurseries.
Needle retention score: 5
Douglasfir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
Discovered on Vancouver Island in 1791, the Douglasfir is one of the longest lived conifers and also makes a long-lasting Christmas tree. It has a sweet resinous scent and a fine texture with many little branchlets for small and mediumweight ornaments. Dark green or blue-green in colour, its needles are soft, shiny and 2.5 to 3.5 centimetres long. They hold on well as long as the tree is regularly watered. Widely available in Western Canada, less common in the East.
Needle retention score: 4