There's no doubt about it: The holiday season presents a multitude of opportunities to please the senses. However, for many folks, nothing brings Christmastime home more than the pungent scent and lovely sight of a real Christmas tree.
Whether your Christmas tradition includes a trip to a tree farm or to a local retailer, there are many points to keep in mind when choosing a tree for your home.
For example, tree prices vary based on tree variety, size, quality and the distance to market. "Typically, consumers will find that pines may be the less expensive trees; spruces and Douglas-fir trees fall in the mid-range of pricing; and the true firs, such as noble, Fraser and Balsam, (are) at the higher end of the price scale," according to Marsha Gray, a representative for the National Christmas Tree Association.
"However, each market will vary. If consumers are price conscious, we recommend that they check a few locations before they purchase their tree. Most tree pricing is readily available on websites of farms, big box stores and garden centers," Gray says.
The popularity of each Christmas tree type varies over time and across different regions. "In the South, you will find Leyland cypress and Virginia pine," says Gray. "In many Northern states, the spruces, such as the white spruce and Colorado blue spruce, are an important part of the mix."
"Over the last few decades, the true firs have become more and more popular with American buyers," she adds. "That would include the very popular noble, Fraser and balsam firs. Also in this category are some firs with more unique characteristics, such as the Nordman, concolor and grand fir. Also very popular are more traditional favorites such as the Douglas fir, Scotch pine and white pine."
Gayle Johnson, proprietor of Apple Barn orchard and garden center, agrees that the Fraser fir, with branches that turn slightly upward and have good form and needle retention, is rightfully popular. She trucks in mostly Fraser firs to her many customers, and says it is the ideal tree. "We offer a variety of sizes of trees and sometimes trim them to specifications," she says. "Their scent is amazing. They smell so good!"
Scent is important, Gray agrees. "Celebrating the holiday with a fresh Christmas tree is a long-standing tradition. American consumers identify the beautiful fragrance as their top reason for selecting a real Christmas tree."
Of course, Christmas trees are meant to be decorated -- and some trees hold up under the weight of decorations better than others. For example, the white spruce is excellent for ornaments, as is the noble fir. The Virginia pine also does well with decorations. For more information, see the National Christmas Tree Association website (http://www.realchristmastrees.org), which offers descriptions of the most common Christmas trees.
Gray notes that even if it's cold outside, you should take your time and enjoy the process of picking out a tree. "Each variety and each tree has different qualities, and we encourage people to spend some time at the tree lot or farm to experience the different varieties," she says.
"We know that real Christmas trees are the best environmental choice, and a fresh, well-hydrated Christmas tree is a beautiful and safe option for your holiday."
"There is a great variation in color, texture and fragrance in the different trees," Gray says. "We know there is a Christmas tree that is perfect for every family!"