How to buy the perfect Christmas tree
PUBLISHED: 18:10 02 December 2016 | UPDATED: 17:47 08 December 2016
The first weekend in December is probably the earliest you can buy your tree and expect it to last until the end of Christmas. Here's what you need to consider before you do.
If you’ve dusted off your tree stand, got your baubles out and are surrounded by sparkling tinsel, it must be almost time to put the Christmas tree up.
The fresher the tree, the more likely it is to last through the festive season without dropping its needles or looking a little tired.
While the most common type of tree is still the Nordmann fir – which accounts for 80 per cent of trees sold – there are some that might better suit your available space and budget.
“Bear in mind the size of the room and the weight of the tree,” says David Mitchell, plant buyer for Wyevale Garden Centres. “A lot of Christmas trees are sold by height, so make sure you’ve got the roof space for it and don’t end up having to cut a section off the top.
“Some trees have a lighter structure. We sell a Swedish-style Nordmann which is lighter. We select the trees in the field and prune them to have a lighter feel, which suits a lot of customers. They are good if you want to experiment with larger decorations or you want to see light coming through the tree. They have more of a layered structure, and they are cheaper than the denser trees.
The four main types of tree on offer this year are Nordman fir, Fraser fir, Noble fir and Norway spruce, each of which has its own characteristics.
Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana)
The most popular tree, it won’t drop its needles for the duration of the festive season and people love it because of its dense branches, uniform shape and good variety of sizes. Expect to pay from about £20 upwards, depending on size.
Fraser fir (Abies fraseri)
This is ideal for those with limited space, who want a real Christmas tree. It’s a slim tree, so you’re less likely to brush past it and knock off decorations in a smaller room, but it also has a great shape and fresh citrus scent, and its dark olive-green needles don’t drop. It’s likely to be more expensive than the Nordmann, and there won’t be as many available as it’s a more difficult tree to grow commercially, says Mitchell.
Noble fir (Abies procera)
Consumers buy this tree primarily for its blue-hued needle colour and rich fragrance. It’s non-drop, but is unlikely to be as uniformly shaped as the Nordmann. This tree is ideal for individuals who don’t conform to conventional shapes and sizes of tree.
Norway spruce (Picea abies)
This is the traditionalist’s tree. It may shed its needles, but what it loses in longevity it gains in scent. It’s a good tree if you’re putting it up last minute, or at least closer to Christmas, because it won’t last as long as the more expensive non-drop trees. “A lot of people look for nostalgia at Christmas time and this is part of the mix,” says Mitchell. “It smells more Christmassy than the Nordmann, but you do get the dropping needles, although how quickly they drop really depends on how you look after the tree.”
There are twiggy alternatives – if you haven’t space, decorate containerised olive or pyramid-trained bay trees or standard holly bushes and put them outside your front door or on a balcony, anywhere outside where you get a good view of them.
Ideally, buy from a local grower. Visit the British Christmas Tree Growers Association website (bctga.co.uk) to check out members locally. Alternatively, good garden centres should have plenty of trees from which to choose. Wyevale (wyevalegardencentres.co.uk) sources 95 per cent of its trees from the UK and Ireland.
David Mitchell offers the following tips to keep your tree going through the festive season:
- Buy it fresh – he recommends getting it early before the trees have been left standing in the garden centre a week or longer. When you bring it home, cut a couple of centimetres off the trunk and dunk it in a bucket of water, leaving it outside until you need it.
- Buy from a retailer who will remove it from its netting. You want to see the shape of it before you buy. Sometimes a micro-climate builds up within trees which have been netted for any length of time, which can make trees drop their needles earlier.
- Put the tree into a stand which can hold water. Water it regularly throughout the festive season.
- Try to keep the tree in the cool and definitely away from direct heat. Don’t place it near radiators or fires.
- If you buy a containerised tree, keep it indoors for a minimum amount of time as it can suffer from shock coming into a centrally heated house. Let it acclimatise gradually by putting it in a cool room or on a porch. Containerised trees have roots and are living, so when replanting them in the garden, ensure you have enough space as many of the conifers grow extremely tall.