Skip to main content

Deck the halls

Cards on the table – I am not a big fan of the idea of Christmas trees. But I have to weigh up the senseless felling of hundreds of thousands of trees each year against the knowledge that they form an important part of many farmer’s income. I also know I’m in a minority so this month I’m going to help you pick the right Christmas tree and with any luck get you to plant another to make up for its felling or at the very least get you to recycle afterwards!

Christmas trees are all part of the great Christmas build-up. The smell, the needles, the potential for hilarious home videos, but there is such a huge choice available so here are my top tips.

Which species?

Well it depends on what you want to achieve. The traditional Norway spruce is the original Christmas tree and usually the cheapest – it’s what goes up in Trafalgar Square. But it can also drop it’s needles quickly unless kept well watered so a rooted specimen usually works best. The Blue spruce is luxuriant but the needles are often sharper so mind eyes, children and pets. The Noble fir has a better reputation for longevity, great staying power and fragrance. Finally the Nordmann is the most popular British tree – good on all accounts but can be sparse so choose wisely.

To root or not?

If you fancy trying to grow your tree after Christmas or even to keep it growing in a pot until next year you obviously need a rooted specimen. Not a bare root but an actual container grown plant or at least a tree lifted with soil intact around its roots. A quick poll of my neighbours reveals that it’s tough to achieve and success rates were mixed. That’s not to say it won’t grow – my neighbour’s 30 foot tree is evidence that some grow into mighty pines with huge ornamental value. But not everyone has the space so you can also opt for a cut or bare root (where some of the root remains) and invest in a stand which allows easy watering.

Where to put it?

Constant watering is the best way to treat a tree because our modern heating systems continuously act against their survival. For this reason colder conservatories are often an advantage when locating your tree. But make sure you keep the tree away from direct draughts and extremes of temperature such as next to radiators.

There are a great many sources of trees and every year seems to bring new pitches with piles of trees for sale. Don’t be afraid to get your seller to untie, shake out and show you your prospective tree. They can look far less bushy than when all wrapped up so be warned!

The best sources include members of the British Tree Growers Association that can direct you to local growers and suppliers. Their website is extremely helpful. Reports of a shortage of supply this year seem unfounded in the UK so don’t panic buy early if you want your tree to last.

Finally let me make my pitch. If you are buying a tree, how about replacing that tree somewhere by making a donation to the Woodland Trust, you can find out how through,uk  and even buy someone a present of some native British trees – now that’s what I call a real tree present!