Roger picks the tree
Photo: Keller & Keller
One of Roger's top live-tree picks for the Northeast is a Fraser fir, because the native tree has good needle, retention, a nice aroma, and a striking bluish-silver color on the underside of the branches
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To get the best selection, head to the nursery around Thanksgiving—well ahead of the late-December rush. Most nurseries will tag your specimen and hold it for you until it's time to bring it home. To figure out how big a tree you can handle, measure the ceiling height in the room where you plan to put it. Factor in the size of the tree plus its root ball, as well as the height of an ornament on top and whether the container sits off the ground. Also, check the tree's projected growth to make sure it won't get too big for the space you're considering in your yard.

To ensure that your planted tree thrives long past the holidays, choose a species suited to your climate. Your local nursery will give the best advice, since growing conditions vary even within regions. One of Roger's top picks for the Northeast is a Fraser fir (like the one shown here), because the native tree has good needle retention, a nice aroma, and a striking bluish-silver color on the underside of the branches. Native species in other regions include Douglas fir in the Northwest, Arizona cypress in the Southwest, and Virginia pine down South. Compare conifers with a natural shape with denser ones that are pruned to look like the Christmas trees you see on greeting cards. Look at the tree from several angles to check for bald spots and crooks in the trunk. Then, run your hands over the needles. If some brown ones near the trunk drop, that's fine. "Evergreens naturally shed needles in the fall," says Roger. But if those on the ends of the branches fall off, pick another tree. "This can be a sign of disease, insect damage, or that it's dried out."
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