Plants - Trees and Shrubs

Choose the perfect Christmas tree

How to pick the perfect specimen and care for it over the holidays

Nothing adds to the excitement of the holiday season like a decorated Christmas tree. And, now that natural trees have been declared the winner in the “which-is-greener” debate, you’ll want one that reflects your own style.

Natural Christmas trees are more enviro-friendly for several reasons. According to Ross Gough, executive director of the Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario, “If composted correctly, a natural Christmas tree will break down within two years so there is nothing for the landfill. Buying natural also means you’re supporting a local farmer and reducing your carbon footprint.”

Back to the basics
Not only will you be doing your bit for the environment you’ll also be in vogue. “With the downturn in the economy, people want to keep things simple but beautiful. Nothing looks better or is more authentic than a natural Christmas tree,” says Lena Maher, a Montreal-based eco-decorator and event planner.

Choose your type
There are four basic types of trees sold at farms and nurseries:
  • Scotch pine: Brought over by European settlers, the Scotch pine has been the perennial favourite throughout North America. Its sturdy branches that curve upwards mean this tree can handle plenty of ornaments. Needles are in sharp clusters of two with colours ranging from blue-green to yellow-green. It has decent needle retention, but it requires plenty of pesticides to get a healthy tree, so it’s falling out of favour.
  • Balsam fir: With its dense, dark-green foliage, the balsam is quickly becoming the new darling of natural trees. It’s tall but narrow pyramid shape is topped off with a spire-like tip—perfect for a star. The flat, rounded needles are softer, making it one of the easiest to decorate so you can get the kids to help. It’s also very aromatic, holding its scent and needles for longer than most other trees. An excellent choice if your tree is going to be up longer than three weeks.
  • White spruce: This tree has strong slender branches with dense green to bluish-green foliage. It has a perfect form with a symmetrical, cone-shaped crown and evenly spreading branches. Needles are short, stiff and blunt at the end, so it can be a bit prickly to decorate. It has excellent needle retention, but its one downside is a rather disagreeable odour when the needles are crushed.
  • Fraser fir: Similar in shape to the balsam, the Fraser fir is quickly becoming the designer natural tree. It has a rich, dark green foliage with soft silver undertones. Its upper branches have a gentle upward curve, giving it a pleasing U-shape. It’s pleasant scent and ultra-soft needles with good retention are also a plus. Due to its longer growing cycle, this will be a much more expensive tree. 

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