It’s that time of year again and you will be thinking of putting your Christmas tree up. Whether it’s a real tree or not that you want, here are a few tips on picking the best Christmas tree for your home.
To most people the Christmas tree is the most important decoration you will put up this season, so you want it to be the best it can be. But maybe each year you end up with a tree that just isn’t quite right? Too short, too sparse, too skinny? So here is some advice on what to look for, how to choose, and the best way to then care for you tree.
SHOULD YOU CHOOSE A REAL OR ARTIFICIAL TREE?
So should you choose a real tree or an artificial one? There is no right or wrong answer to this as it is simply down to personal preference. Some of us like picking a brand new fresh tree each year and having the smell of pine in our home, whereas others prefer to invest in an artificial tree that is less hassle and can just be lugged down from the loft each year. Here are some pointers for each type of tree:
Real Christmas trees:
- You can’t beat their smell and authenticity;
- A 6ft tree will cost £30 to £60;
- They are carbon neutral;
- They can be recycled or seasoned and burnt for fuel;
- Maintenance is required to prevent dropping.
- There are some really good artificial trees out there that won’t drop, are low maintenance and can be used year after year
- A really good artificial tree will set you back £100 to £300, but that cost is spread over several years;
- Artificial trees are available pre-lit, pre-decorated and even in bright colours if you fancy something different;
- If you can, choose a British-made artificial tree which won’t have been transported too far.
HOW TO BUY A REAL CHRISTMAS TREE
- Make sure the tree you are choosing is sustainable and eco-friendly.
- Where possible, buy direct from the grower so you can see where it has come from. This is also the greenest option as you won’t have to add transportation to seller into the tree’s carbon footprint.
- In some cases, you get to choose and help fell your own tree, and be served mince pies and mulled wine, which really adds to the festive experience.
- If you do buy a Christmas tree from a seller rather than a grower, try and guarantee it is British grown. An imported tree will have been out of the ground for longer, so will probably begin to drop its needles earlier.
- Avoid pre-wrapped stock as you cannot properly see the shape, width or quality, and measure exactly the ceiling height of the room where the tree will be placed – there may be an allowance of up to 15cm on the measurement shown on the tag. Factor in, too, the dimensions of the stand, which will add to the overall height.
MAIN TYPES OF CHRISTMAS TREE
- The Nordmann fir claims to have ‘non-drop’ needles.
- It has become the UK’s bestseller.
- It remains a more expensive option on account of the time it takes to grow, but with its citrus smell, and lovely soft needles, it is a great option for families with young children.
- The reliably triangular shape tends to be slightly more open and less dense than Norway spruce, so it is ideal for those who prefer baubles and other hanging decorations aplenty.
- The Norway spruce remains the ‘traditional’ species for the British Christmas tree.
- Its triangular shape, dark green needles, gently drooping branches and distinctive ‘pine’ fragrance are the very essence of Christmas, and its dense bushy shape is excellent for decorating.
- It is quite cheap when compared to other options.
- It does tend to shed its needles quite freely, however, particularly as the festive season progresses. Offset this by bringing it inside later than other varieties; keep it well watered and away from direct heat sources.
- The Blue Spruce is one of the most attractive Christmas trees, with a good natural shape, and distinguished by the striking blue-green – sometimes almost electric blue – needles.
- These are very sharp, however, so take care when handling it. Although its foliage is slower to drop than that of the Norway spruce, it is not a non-drop option.
- It does have a wonderfully distinctive ‘pine’ scent, and is so attractive that it commands attention even before it has been decorated.
HOW TO TEST IF YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE IS FRESH
- Look for a healthy, shiny appearance;
- Needles should be flexible and not fall easily. Check this by dropping lightly on its stump. Evergreens lose needles all year, but if it drops more than a few, it is not fresh;
- Compare the weight with similar sized trees. Good quality trees will be heavier;
- Aim to buy, or collect, your tree no more than three weeks before Christmas Day, but leave it outdoors until two weeks before at least, in order to keep it at its maximum freshness.
HOW TO MAINTAIN A REAL CHRISTMAS TREE
Once you have the tree home, cut approximately 1cm to 2cm off the stump using a handsaw, before standing it in a pail of fresh water, in a cool, shaded area. When it is brought indoors, mount the tree in a water-holding stand, and place away from any heat source, such as a radiator.
Once it is unwrapped, allow the branches to settle before decorating them. Keep the container regularly topped up with water, as the tree will consume a surprising amount. This will help it to maintain its sheen and needles.
As with any Christmas tree, delay as long as possible before bringing living trees indoors. Aim to keep them in the house for no longer than 12 days, but be guided by the tree – if it looks unhappy, then put it back outside.
HOW TO RECYCLE A CHRISTMAS TREE
Most local authorities run a tree recycling service, or members of the British Tree Growers Association will recycle them free of charge. Alternatively, cut up the wood and season it for at least a year to use as firewood, or chip it to use on garden borders. However, you may want to replant the tree after Christmas, in this case go for a pot grown version when purchasing your tree in the first place, this way the roots should be in-tact.
After Christmas, pot-grown trees can either be planted out with a very good chance of success, or left to grow on in the pot. If choosing the latter option, re-pot the tree into a larger pot. This can be done annually, until the tree reaches the maximum size that can be moved comfortably.
If planting the tree in the ground, acclimatise it first in a sheltered spot and keep it well watered. Most Christmas tree species ultimately grow to form very large specimens, frequently reaching a height of about 15m to 20m within 20 years.