Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree: Part Four

More Top 10 Choices
6.  Eastern Red Cedar:  While it ranks number 6, many consider an Eastern Red Cedar the quintessential Christmas tree of the South. However, I now live in Florida and while I really don’t consider this tropically touristy area “the South," I can’t remember ever seeing any Eastern Red Cedars in the local Christmas tree lots.  I’m told that they are more often available at tree farms and cut-your-own plantations, which is way North of here.  I’ll have to have one of my elves check out the Florida Panhandle market.  What intrigues me about this possibly perfect Christmas tree choice is the color possibilities.  There is the traditional dark green, and bluish green, but also silvery, gray green, bronze and even better than that?  PURPLE!  We need to get some of these shipped down here.  Plus they are very aromatic.  On the down side, the needles are sharp and prickly, and there isn’t much room for hanging ornaments.  But some of the cultivars come in BRONZE and PURPLE.  I think that’s a fair trade.  The needles are short and – I’ll be honest here – a little funky looking, but that in itself could be an exciting new challenge.

It might not be my first choice for the perfect Christmas tree, but bronze and purple are just to delectable to ignore.

7. White Spruce: Another traditional family favorite, the White Spruce is THE perfect Christmas tree for hanging ornaments.  They have a lovely natural shape, with the branches having rounded tips.  Their color ranges from green to bluish green, with the needles being ½ to ¾ inches long.  On some Christmas tree websites, it ranks the second worst tree for needle retention – Yikes! – and the needle texture, while not homicidal aren’t very soft either. The needles also have a nasty odor when crushed.  Just how nasty is nasty? On the National Christmas Tree Association web site it refers to nicknames such as “skunk spruce” or “cat spruce.”  With all that being said, it has such a pure and lovely form, it just has to be on your list to at least consider.  Just don’t go around crushing the needles. 
8. Eastern White Pine: Even though the Eastern White Pine is the state tree of Michigan, I don’t believe I ever purchased one.  Mainly because they have very little scent, which is a good thing if you have allergies, but not so good if you like lying on the couch near the tree and smelling it all season long.  Many of the Eastern White Pine are sheared to perfection for the Christmas market, but their long needles (2 ½ - 5 inches) make them a little bushy for someone with large hanging ornaments.  They range in color from a soft bluish green to silvery green and the needles are soft to the touch.  Because of the flexible branches, this would not be the perfect Christmas tree choice if you have heavy ornaments.  In spite of its shortcomings, the classic beauty, outstanding needle retention as well as it’s usually reasonable cost makes it a Christmas tree worth considering every year. 
9.  White Fir aka Concolor:  This is “the go to” tree in the State of California and well it should be.  Its needles are ½ to 1 ½ inches long that range in color from bluish green to a matte green, depending on maturity. What makes the White Fir a perfect Christmas tree selection is that it grows in the classic “Christmas Tree” shape of our memories and has wonderfully straight trunks.  Any of us who have struggled to put up a crooked trunked tree know how important this trait is.  It also has a pleasant odor, not so much a harsh “piney” scent but with a fresh almost citrusy overlay, which would also make it a wonderful choice anywhere citrus is grown. Like FLORIDA.  Since my specifications for a perfect Christmas tree often change year to year, I have purchased several of these in the past.  Not just because the price was right, but because there is a whimsical quality to the way the branches grow, fluffy with a slight curve. It reminds me of the kind of tree the Waltons would have or those Little House on the Prairie girls.  It just looks real and traditional.
10.  Virginia Pine:  And last, but surely not least, the Virginia Pine.  The Virginia Pine has long been the traditional tree choice below the Mason Dixon Line.  (That means here in the south, ya’ll).  Over the years, when no one was bothering to send any of the Scotch Pines south, we could always get Virginia Pine.  While not a “take your breath away” stunner, they have great color variants, from a dark rich green to a silvery gray.  The needles grow from 1 ½ - 3 inches long.  They have a lovely natural shape with good needle retention.  They can be a little bushy, but this tree is so pretty all it really needs are lights.  This could be the perfect Christmas tree for those who want to just do ribbons or simple decorations. 
Here's a big shout out of "Thanks" to Rick Dungey, the Public Relations Manager over at The National Christmas Tree Association who so graciously allowed me to use these photos from their website.  For a lot more information about Christmas Trees, check them out at:  http://www.christmastree.org

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