By Carol Stocker, who will be chatting live Thursday, Dec. 19, 1-2 p.m...Scotch pines used to be the only kind of Christmas tree widely available. Now there are many species to choose from.
Fir trees are deservedly the most popular. Their sturdy, well-spaced branches and short needles make them the best choice for all those large ornaments people collect. Firs are also fragrant, with a classic "pine" scent (oddly enough), and hold their needles well. Though people debate the relative merits of Fraser, balsam, and Canaan firs, there is really little difference except that balsam is the most scented.
Douglas firs have longer needles and wider bases and a orange fragrance. Concolor firs, also called white firs, are rapidly gaining fans because their soft bluish-green needles make them a less prickly alternative to Colorado blue spruces. Because they grow slowly and are in high demand, firs can cost more than other types of Christmas trees. Balsam firs can be hard to find growing near Boston because they thrive at higher northern elevations.
Scotch pines are still a favorite. They are often less expensive and hold their needles well, but tend to be dense and slightly more difficult to decorate.
Eastern white pines are a common woodland tree here with tufts of long, soft blue-green needles. They are pretty when lit with strings of lights, but their branches bow under the weight of heavy ornaments.
Spruces get mixed reviews. Colorado blue spruces are loved by many for their silvery blue color and symmetry, but hated by even more for prickly needles that can make tree-trimming a painful experience. Norway and white spruces have needles that are softer but often much quicker to drop, and while the strong fragrance of white spruce smells woodsy to many folks other people think white spruce smells like cat urine!