In the build-up to the holiday season, one of the most important rituals is choosing and decorating the perfect Christmas Tree. Evergreen trees are a universal symbol of the season and the penultimate decoration—it’s under the tree that Santa is supposed to leave you presents—if you’ve been good.
Everyone that celebrates has a different tradition when it comes to selecting their Christmas tree. Some people prefer live trees, while others prefer artificial ones, though there are benefits to both. Artificial Christmas trees don’t need to be watered, they don’t shed needles, they’re easily disassembled for storage, and you can put them up and take them down whenever you prefer.
Despite not being as convenient, there’s something magical about a living Christmas tree. There’s simply no substitute for that natural, citrusy-pine scent of evergreen wafting through your home. Even the best artificial trees can’t fully capture the grandeur of the boughs of a mighty balsam fir or the silvery-blue color of a blue spruce. Both artificial and natural trees are very popular—you’ve probably noticed them popping up for sale in early November across small towns and big cities alike.
The most common way people go about picking out a live Christmas tree is from a tree stand. Tree stands are temporary stores, usually outdoors, where fresh-cut Christmas trees and natural evergreen decorations like wreaths, are sold. Evergreens tend to prefer cooler climates and higher elevations.
One region that supplies a lot of the trees you see for sale is New England. If you’ve traveled through Vermont, you may have seen signs for many of the Christmas tree farms that supply tree stands, both near and far. Most Vermont tree farms offer a variety of freshly-harvested trees, wreaths, and decorations.
For many families, visiting their favorite local tree farm to cut their own tree each year is an important holiday tradition. Christmas trees take about 8-9 years to fully mature to suitable harvesting size, so annual farms must have multiple fields in rotation.
Many farms allow their customers to visit in advance of the holiday season and tag the tree they want. This helps to save on time and the headache of trying to pick the best tree at the last minute. Some families are fortunate enough to own or have access to land where they can cut an evergreen growing in the wild.
Some families even bundle up and go out into the woods or a field to harvest their tree by the light of the moon—and helpful flashlights too. Here’s our handy guide to some of New England’s most popular varieties of live Christmas trees…
Yellow-green colored needles, strong branches that angle upwards, strong evergreen fragrance, conical shape, can grow up to 50 feet. Great for heavier ornaments. Available in VT
Dark-green colored needles, strong fragrance, strong branches, flatter needles curve upward, conical shape, can grow up to 66 feet tall. Native to the Northeastern US and Canada. Make great Christmas trees, also widely used for wreaths and decorations. Available in VT
Deep-green colored needles, medium fragrance, strong branches, similar to the Fraser fir, great needle retention, native to West Virginia, now cultivated and available in Vermont.
Dark-green color, strong fragrance, strong branches, softer and flatter needles, can grow up to 330 feet tall. Almost half of all US Christmas trees are Douglas firs. Available in VT
Yellowish-green, strong fragrance, strong branches, native to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. Can grow up to 230 feet tall.
Dark-green color, strong fragrance, strong branches, needles curve upward. Native to the Pacific Northwest.
Bluish-green, medium fragrance, strong branches, flattened needles. Can grow up to 195 feet tall.
Light Bluish-green, low fragrance, flexible branches. The largest pine in the US and can grow up to 230 feet and live over 400 years.
Dark green, medium fragrance, strong branches, great needle retention. Can grow up to 115 feet tall. Available in VT
Green, medium fragrance, short flexible branches, long brush-like needles. Can grow up to 70 feet tall.
Silver-blue color, strong fragrance, strong branches. Native to the Rocky Mountains. Can grow up to 75 feet tall. Considered to have the perfect conical Christmas tree shape. Available in VT
Dark-green, medium fragrance. Poor needle retention and must be watered properly. Can grow up to 180 feet tall.
Bluish-green color, medium fragrance, sturdy branches. Can grow up to 130 feet tall.
Whatever kind you choose, all Christmas trees are beautiful, from the grand splendor of a tall Douglas fir to the quirky charm of a spindly little Scotch Pine. It all depends on your own personal preference and aesthetic. The best way to enhance a Christmas tree’s natural beauty is with decorations—and there are so many different styles, colors, and options to choose from.
thank you for a wonderfully informative article…….love all Christmas trees & always had a live one until a few years ago……but miss it so much, so this year I will have one of my sons get me a live one & cut it down to a tabletop, for better management.
thanks Vermont Country Store for sharing this.
Merry Christmas everyone !!
As a southerner it would be perfect if a photo was included with the description of each tree. I grew up with cedar trees.
I love buying a real tree and planting it. Very challenging to keep alive through summers however.
Now I currently purchase a small fir treein the water cups, table top its called. For the last 4 years my cats simply adore drinking the water from the red reservoir under the tree, LOL they love it. Guess its the Live tree in water… I know weird but lovely…
I enjoyed your article about the difference between the types of Christmas Trees.
Hi everyone. Thanks for letting me read all those wonderful memories and comments as bout past Christmas trees. For years I used to favor the scotch pine but now I use artificial tree. The last two years I didn’t put up a tree at all, but will this year and am worried that my two young cats (one and a half years old) who love all things plastic to gnaw on will eat the tree. I would go back to live one but the fifteen year old loves all things living and green to chew on. If anybody has had success battling cats and trees, I welcome your tips and suggestions. Merry Christmas
This was a very nice article. I am at the age where I don’t have a tree any more but have lots of memories of past trees. I go to my children’s homes and enjoy their trees. When I was a child my Aunt lived downstairs from us and our tradition was to sleep by her Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve. Now I just have small decorative trees. I got my first order from you (some under ware and am very happy with what I ordered.
Thank you !!!!! Merry Christmas !!! Peggy Rogers Dec.62020
I loved reading your sweet memory. Thank you for sharing it and Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year. ⛄️⛸❄️
Peggy, I enjoyed reading your story. Christmas memories are maybe some of the strongest, and most imprinted in our minds above any others. From my early twenties I began collecting my ornaments and kept doing it year after year. My children enjoyed years of my enthusiastic tree decorating. I always had a real tree. My children are married and living on their own. I got a fake tree 5 years ago. But just haven’t been totally satisfied not having thst real tree. Next year, even though my husband is tired of fighting putting a tree in the stand, I’m determined to have a real tree again. I’ll find somebody to do it. I’ll pay them.
This is a lovely and informative article regarding “Christmas trees.” My parents and and my siblings and I, ALWAYS went to the local Christmas tree stand,(parents decided later on through the years to support the local Boy Scouts, and purchase our tree there),on Christmas eve to buy the tree, which was Usually the Balsam Fir,(Love these trees!). My father and brothers prepared the tree,(sawing a wee bit from it’s base), and were responsible for setting it up in the living room. My mother and I were responsible for it’s decorations. I loved ‘OUR’ tradition, and I Miss it So Much. Just as you said, every family has their tradition. This was many years ago. In my adult life, space is an issue, for the first few years, I purchased a table sized tree,(that Wasn’t Balsam!), but later realized I could buy the Balsam tree and have it cut Very short so it would Still be essentially a tabletop tree, and used the remainder of the tree for my wreath etc. Over the past several years, I’ve just lost the energy to do all of this. So I just have enjoy the outdoors and,(indoors through their windows), how my neighbors and town decorate at Christmas time. Thank you for letting me share My story.
Your article has been very interesting to me. I always wondered why my aunt and uncle who had a florist shop, didn’t know the name of the Noble Fir. Now I understand why, since it is a Pacific Northwest tree, and they lived in PA. I also, have wanted to be able to recognize the different evergreen trees, and your article has helped me in that. I will keep it and refer to it again. I am torn between wanting a live tree and an artificial one, but if the live ones are not fresh, they don’t have a nice smell, so might as well get an artificial one. We got a live one this year, but it’s barely alive, and has no smell, so it disappointing. At least we haven’t had to water it every day since it’s so old, it doesn’t “drink” up the water. Ha!