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How to choose and care for your Christmas tree

PUBLISHED: 16:53 01 December 2014 | UPDATED: 16:53 01 December 2014

Christmas trees that will be sold by John Lewis. Pictured: Farmer Nicolai Olesen. PA Photo/Handout/John Lewis.

Christmas trees that will be sold by John Lewis. Pictured: Farmer Nicolai Olesen. PA Photo/Handout/John Lewis.

Archant

The British Christmas Tree Growers Association advice says not to buy your tree earlier than December 1, meaning that today will be the official start of Christmas for many households.

Looking after a container-grown tree

:: Keep it in the house for no more than two weeks. If necessary, you can keep your tree in a sheltered spot outside until you’re ready to bring it in.

:: Put a saucer under the pot to protect your furniture/floor,or place the pot inside another one without drainage holes.

:: Choose a cool spot, away from radiators and fires, to prevent the tree from overheating. It should have some natural daylight.

:: Water regularly and don’t let it dry out - but don’t leave it sitting in water. Try using ice cubes, which also help to keep the roots cool.

:: To keep the tree growing after the festive season, put it outside initially in a sheltered spot, next to a house wall for a few weeks, covering it with horticultural fleece if hard frost is forecast.

:: Repot the tree every few years when its roots outgrow the container, replanting it in ericaceous compost mixed with grit for extra drainage, feeding it with a low dose of liquid feed from spring to autumn. Most importantly, don’t let it dry out.

Homebase, B&Q and Asda have had trees in some of their stores for several weeks, while even John Lewis has started selling real trees online for the first time.

I personally remain unconvinced about buying a Christmas tree online as shapes do vary and there is limited scope for returning it if it’s too wide, dense or simply doesn’t fit the shape of your space.

But if you’ve already decked the halls with boughs of holly and put the baubles and tinsel on your Christmas tree, how are you going to stop it from looking like a dried-up old offering by December 25, with more needles on the floor than on the branches?

Well, if you are still looking for a cut real tree, make sure you saw around an inch off the base before you buy, which will open the pores of the tree, albeit temporarily. You need to plunge the tree butt in a bucket of water immediately after cutting it, so the tree can absorb moisture and the pores don’t have a chance to close up again.

When the tree is brought indoors, mount it in a water-holding stand and place it away from direct heat, such as a radiator. Keep the container topped up with water every day; you will be surprised how much the tree drinks.

When buying your tree, Harry Brightwell, secretary of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, advises: “A fresh tree will have a healthy green appearance with few browning needles.

“Needles should be flexible and not fall off if you run a branch through your hand. Raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the butt end. Very few green needles should drop off the tree but it is normal for a few inner brown needles to drop off.”

Prices are likely to be much the same as last year. B&Q is charging £35 for a medium Nordmann fir (4ft 11in-6ft 6in) and £20 for a similar sized Norway spruce, while from Homebase a 5ft-6ft cut Nordmann fir is £35 and a similar sized Fraser fir is £30.

About 80% of the trees sold are Nordmann fir, around 10-15% Norway spruce, and the remainder are lesser known varieties including the Fraser fir.

Gardeners may opt for container-grown trees, grown in pots from seedling stage, which are able to develop a good root system and can be planted in the garden afterwards. However, beware of similar-sounding ‘containerised’ trees, warns Which? Gardening, the Consumers’ Association magazine. These trees are grown in a field then dug up and put into a pot just before sale. They often lose a lot of roots in the process and looked dull and lifeless at the end of a trial carried out by Which?

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