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Find the right Christmas tree to fit your family

By Lori Timmer/The Holland Sentinel • Dec 3, 2016 at 10:00 AM

It's a holiday tradition that has spanned centuries.

The Christmas tree was introduced in the United States in the 1800s by German settlers. Originally tabletop size, the small Christmas tree has grown and is most often the focal point of holiday decorating.

While many have gone to artificial trees, fresh trees are still the top seller. In 2012, Michigan was ranked third in Christmas tree harvest, with a total of 1,739,538.

Finding the right Christmas tree is an important event — the tree must fit your lifestyle and your personal taste.

If you opt for a fresh tree, there are many factors to consider when making your selection, such as long needles or short, the right height, etc. There's nothing worse than getting your tree home and finding it's too tall for your room, or too small and it gets lost in your furnishings.

Selecting the species is the first step. Here are a few of the most popular:

Fraser fir

This is the most popular tree. With a dark, blue-green color, the Fraser fir is a top pick.

Its branches turn slightly upward, which is good for ornament-hanging, and the tree can last up to six weeks. The soft needles are a bluish green with a silver underside. The tree has excellent needle retention as well as a traditional but not overpowering scent for those who enjoy a fragrant tree.

Douglas fir

Nationally, the Douglas fir is one of the most popular Christmas tree species. Its soft needles are dark-green to blue-green and radiate out in all directions from the branch. They have a sweet fragrance when crushed.

Scotch pine

This one has been around a while.

About 15 years ago, half of the Christmas trees grown in Michigan were Scotch pines. Since more varieties have been introduced, its production has dropped off, but it still makes up a quarter of those grown in the state.

The tree can last for quite a while, like most pines. It’s a dense, full tree with a good shape. It has excellent needle retention, but can start to get a little poky once it's not as fresh.

Most Scotch pines are produced in Michigan and other areas of the Midwest.

Norway spruce

This variety has dark green needles and drooping branchlets, but its beauty is short-lived.

The Norway spruce boasts long, shiny, dark-green needles. However, its needle retention is poor without proper care. It also dries out the quickest of most varieties.

It has a strong fragrance, conical shape and develops strong branches.

Concolor fir

This tree has a can’t-miss color and fragrance. Its blue-silver color is similar to a blue spruce, and its fragrance is citrusy.

Its long needles, nice shape, aroma and good needle retention make it a top pick. Its needles are also extremely soft.

The Concolor fir comes from the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S.

Colorado blue spruce

This one decorates well, but it has the most poky needles. The tree can last up to four weeks if properly cared for.

Its blue color can range in intensity from tree to tree, but its stiff needles and branches make it popular, as well as its color and good needle retention.

Set it up

Follow these three steps provided by the Michigan Christmas Tree Association to enjoy a fresh and beautiful tree:

1. Start with a fresh tree. You can test for freshness by gently grasping a branch and drawing your hand down the branch. If a few green needles or brown needles come away, that is nothing to worry about. If quite a few green needles come away in your hand, you might want to select a different tree.

2. Once you have selected your tree, you will want to give it a fresh cut on the base of the trunk before you insert it into its stand. An inch is plenty. This allows the tree to take up water while it is on display in your home.

3. Get your tree into fresh water as soon as you get it home. Be sure to use a stand with a large bowl that can hold plenty of water. Check the water level daily (maybe twice a day on the first few days) and never let the level of the water go below the base of the trunk. Christmas trees can lose up to about 50 percent of their moisture content, yet will recover and remain fire resistant if properly displayed in a water-filled container.

A few additional tips:

• Plain water is best for your tree — no additives needed.

• Display your tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, heat vents or windows with southern exposure. All of these will dry out your tree prematurely.

• Use only UL-certified lights on your tree, and never leave lights on when you are not home.

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