Hone that ax, it’s time for the annual trip to the woods (or in most cases the tree lot) to search for the perfect Christmas tree. But, before you plunk down $30, $60—even $150—you should know a tree’s reputation. How long will it hold onto its needles? How do you spot a stale, must-avoid tree? Should you go with the spendthrift’s favorite, Scott pine, the prickly but lovely blue spruce, or perhaps the elegant, soft-needled noble? Read this guide to yuletide conifers for answers to those questions and more.