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…

Fir Trees

Fraser Fir

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

Balsam Fir

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

Canaan Fir

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.

Douglas Fir

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

Grand Fir

Yellowish-green, strong fragrance, strong branches, native to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. Can grow up to 230 feet tall.

Noble Fir

Dark-green color, strong fragrance, strong branches, needles curve upward. Native to the Pacific Northwest.

Concolor/White Fir

Bluish-green, medium fragrance, strong branches, flattened needles. Can grow up to 195 feet tall.

Pine Trees

White Pine

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.

Scots/Scotch Pine

Dark green, medium fragrance, strong branches, great needle retention. Can grow up to 115 feet tall. Available in VT

Virginia Pine

Green, medium fragrance, short flexible branches, long brush-like needles. Can grow up to 70 feet tall.

Spruce Trees

Blue Spruce

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

Norway Spruce

Dark-green, medium fragrance. Poor needle retention and must be watered properly. Can grow up to 180 feet tall.

White Spruce

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.