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These days, many people choose artificial trees over real trees that have been cut, while others prefer the scent and feel of a real tree. If you’re considering purchasing a real tree for the first time, you may not be familiar with the types of Christmas trees available. Here’s a quick list that will help you pick out the right one.

First, you need to know that you’ll get the best selection if you shop early. Don’t worry – you can buy a tree even before Thanksgiving and still keep it fresh and looking healthy and green through Christmas.

If you purchase a tree from a tree farm, you’ll know that the one you’re getting is fresh. If you buy from a lot, you can tell which trees are healthy and fresh by the amount of needles that fall from the tree when it’s handled. A few needles coming off is to be expected, but if you pick the tree up and it loses needles a large number of needles, you’ll want to keep looking. You want the needles to be pliant and have a nice, fresh scent to them. If you choose to get a tree at a Christmas tree farm, you can pick out your tree and even cut it down yourself. Sometimes the price of a tree at a Christmas tree farm is less expensive than buying one from a lot, plus you can turn the event into a family outing.

Once you decide whether to cut your own on a farm or go to a lot, you’ll need to know the types of Christmas trees available. There are several top choice trees to choose from, but you want to make sure you get the one that suits your decorating needs.

In the Fir family, one popular choice is the White Fir. If you want to get a tree before Thanksgiving, this is a good choice. The needles last longer and the tree has a good scent. The Fraser Fir is another popular choice in this family and decorating this tree is easy because the branches are not overly crowded. That’s one thing you have to look for when picking up a tree. You don’t want one where the branches are too close together because it’ll be hard to hang your ornaments and other decorations.

Another common tree in the Fir group is the Balsam Fir, and it’s one that many people recognize due to the strong, fresh scent. There’s also the Grand Fir, but this is a tree best-suited for people who have light ornaments. If you have very ornaments, you may want to choose another type of tree. The Noble Fir, for instance, is good for decorating and is quite sturdy.

In the Spruce tree family, the Colorado Blue Spruce is considered a good choice for heavy or light ornaments. The Norway Spruce, however, has easily dropped needles – so don’t purchase this one too far in advance.

The Eastern White Pine has easily bendable branches and with proper care, has a long life. The Scotch Pine has very sharp needles, but doesn’t shed easily, so if you don’t want to vacuum up needles, this one is a good pick.

Whichever Christmas tree you choose, be sure to cut off a small part of the trunk (about a half inch) when you get home and immediately place it in water. Cutting off the base of the trunk will allow the tree to soak up water and stay fresher. If you don’t cut the base, your tree won’t “drink” the water and will get dried out quickly. Likewise, never let the water level of the tree get too low or the trunk will close up and stop absorbing water. This can cause your tree to dry out and lose needles.

All types of Christmas trees are beautiful and once you find a type you like, you’re likely to keep getting the same kind year after year. So find the type you like and enjoy many happy years of celebrating.